Five observations from the Hawks’ 113-108 victory over the Rockets Thursday night, a game in which they erased a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit.
1. Timmy Time. The Hawks guard went off in the fourth quarter to lead his team to another dramatic victory. It was the second game this season they erased a 20-point deficit.
Hardaway scored 23 fourth-quarter points, making 8 of 11 shots, including three 3-pointers. His dramatics made for a boisterous postgame locker room and teammates willing to fetch him anything he needed or wanted. Kent Bazemore offered to fix him a plate of food. Dennis Schroder brought him deodorant. The last Hawks player with 20 or more points in a quarter was Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter on Nov. 14, 2008 with 21 points at New Jersey.
Hardaway deflected much of the praise directed his way following the game.
“Obviously Tim Hardaway was special on offense,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.
2. Hardaway may have understated his offensive performance with his thoughts about DeAndre Bembry. The rookie was on the floor for all but 14 seconds of the fourth-quarter comeback and drew the defensive assignment of James Harden.
“What was working was DeAndre Bembry,” Hardaway said when asked about his offense. “You have to give him all the credit. A rookie, he was very special for us tonight. Taking the challenge of guarding possibly the MVP of the season. It’s a hard task. He stayed disciplined throughout the entire game, learned from his mistakes and didn’t make the mistakes when it was key in the game. You have to give him all the credit.”
Harden scored just six of his game-high 41 points in the fourth quarter. Twice earlier in the game, Harden suckered Bembry into fouling him on a 3-point attempt.
“Keep your hands away from him,” Bembry said. “When he does it, he does a whole lot of wrapping and grabbing. The refs are going to give him that call. He got two three(-shot fouls) on me like that. You have to keep playing and that’s that I did.”
3. Hawks players called the win special. They have some impressive victories on the season. A win at the Cavaliers. A home win over the Spurs. Erasing a 20-point deficit at the Bucks. Overcoming a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes against the Bulls. A four overtime win over the Knicks.
This might be the best yet.
“This is the most talented league in the world,” Bazemore said. “Twenty points in the NBA can be erased in the blink of an eye. You have to keep fighting. And the fact that we were on national TV, the few chances we get, it’s good to put up a fight.”
4. Give credit to Budenholzer for sticking with the group that erased the 20-point deficit. He kept Paul Millsap and Schroder on the bench while Malcolm Delaney, Hardaway, Howard, Bazemore and Bembry did most of the work.
It would be tempting to put your four-time all-star back in the game when it got close.
“If you got it rolling, why stop?” Hardaway said. “That’s what Coach Bud is really big on. If the five guys are in there rolling, competing and playing hard, why mess up the chemistry that is out there on the court?”
5. Dwight Howard returned to Houston for the first time after spending three seasons with the Rockets. The Hawks center got a mixture of cheers and boos during pre-game introductions from a sparse crowd.
Howard was cheered when the Rockets played a tribute video during a first-quarter timeout.
The Rockets got back to booing after Howard had four of the Hawks’ first six baskets – and they were all dunks. He had a double-double in the first half with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Howard finished with 24 points and 23 rebounds. Howard would not admit to any special meaning to getting the victory but it was clear his teammates wanted to give it for him.
“I didn’t think about it like that,” Howard said. “I just knew we needed this game. After coming off a tough loss in Miami, I didn’t think about it. It wasn’t like we have to beat Houston because it’s my first time back. I just wanted to win.”