Rockets survive 119-111

3-pointers from Rockets versus Hawks

Tim Warren/Getty Images

Fresh off their weekend victory against the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets geared up Monday night to take on the Atlanta Hawks. With James Harden returning to the court after missing Saturday's contest with a neck injury, the 20-40 Hawks looked to be an easy early week victory. Instead, the Rockets found themselves in a four quarter brawl. Each time the Houston built a double digits lead, Atlanta would counter with a barrage of 3s. Houston would ultimately win a game that was far more competitive than most would have expected, pushing their record to 35-25. The Rockets remain first in the Southwest Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

The Trae Young Clinic

You never want your team to be on the business end of an opponent's career high scoring night. That sentiment is exponentially more resonant when the opponent is a rookie who almost drops a 40 piece on the Rockets. Trae Young, the Hawks' first year guard out of Oklahoma, single handedly kept Atlanta competitive throughout the contest as he poured in 36 points and 8 assists. Channeling his inner Steph Curry, Young shot 8-12 from beyond the arc while attacking the rim at will. As the season has progressed, it's become clear that there were no losers following the draft day Luka Doncic/Trae Young swap between the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. Both rookies look poised to remain solid contributors for their respective teams.

Reason for pause

Reigning MVP James Harden's unreal streak of 32 straight 30+ point performances came to an end Monday night, as the All Star finished with a workmanlike 28 on the evening. The writing was on the wall that the streak would be ending soon now that the Rockets were finally healthy. At least that's what the injury report implies. What can't be argued, however, is a noticeable downturn in Harden's shooting since straining his shoulder earlier this month against Oklahoma City. Since then Harden has shot 16-59 (27%) from behind the arc, including a 0-10 three-point performance last night versus the Hawks. Had one of his 3s dropped, Harden's streak would still be alive. Hopefully it's something as simple as a shooting slump, but it's worth keeping an eye on either way as the season winds down.

Cold from beyond

Harden's 0-10 night from beyond the arc was concerning, but he was hardly alone in his struggle. While Atlanta was busy burying 44.7% of their shots from three point range, Houston sputtered. The 15-51 team effort was a major reason Atlanta was able to keep up with Houston. The Rockets made up for their rough shooting at the foul line however, where they connected on 26-30 free throws.

Rockets Player of the Game

James Harden: 28 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds

Hawks Player of the Game

Trae Young: 36 points, 8 assists

Up next

The Rockets travel to Charlotte Wednesday to take on the Hornets (28-32) at 6:00 pm central.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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