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DAN PIERINGERSTATS Writer

The Atlanta Hawks proved in their first two games that they blow out opponents. In their last contest, they showed they can pull out close wins, too.

After surviving their first tightly-contested game, the Hawks look to move to 4-0 for the third time in four seasons Saturday night when they open a three-game road trip against the Houston Rockets.

Atlanta (3-0) has taken advantage of favorable matchups to start the season, routing New Jersey and Washington by a combined 54 points in its first two games. In a rematch with the Nets on Friday night, the Hawks led 95-94 with 2:18 remaining before securing a 105-98 victory.

"They're not all going to look that good," said Hawks forward Marvin Williams, referring to the team's first two wins. "(Friday) was definitely a good test for us before we went out on the road because I bet every road game we play is going to be just like that. It's going to come down to the wire and we're going to be in the game, so it was definitely a good test for us."

Atlanta is no stranger to early-season success, having opened 6-0 in 2008, and again last season.

Despite their latest strong start, the Hawks weren't satisfied with Friday's performance. After holding their first two opponents to 76.5 points per game and 35.1 percent shooting from the field, the Hawks let the Nets shoot a season-high 46.3 percent while also recording their highest point total in four games.

"We played well, but I think we want to do a little better on the defensive end," said point guard Jeff Teague, who led Atlanta with 22 points - two shy of his career high - and six assists while shooting 9 for 12.

The Hawks are probably wise to demand more from themselves as they embark on a daunting road trip. After this matchup, Atlanta faces Miami and Chicago before returning home to meet the East champion Heat again.

The Rockets (1-2) have already faced stiff competition with mixed results, splitting games against Orlando and San Antonio before falling 113-93 at Memphis on Friday night.

The lopsided loss overshadowed another strong performance from Kyle Lowry, who had 15 points, eight assists and four steals. The sixth-year guard is averaging 17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 2.7 steals through the first three games.

Houston hopes to bounce back as it finishes its only back-to-back-to-back situation of the season. First-year coach Kevin McHale has managed his roster carefully, with only one player (reserve guard Courtney Lee) getting more than 30 minutes on the court in Memphis. No Rocket played more than 30 minutes in Thursday's win over San Antonio.

The Rockets won both meetings with the Hawks in 2010-11. Houston forward Luis Scola averaged 17.5 points and shot 65.4 percent from the field in those games, while Atlanta's Joe Johnson averaged 27.5 points and 7.0 assists.

Hawks reserve Tracy McGrady spent five-plus seasons with the Rockets before getting traded in February 2010. He has returned to Houston once since then, scoring 11 points with three rebounds and three assists on Dec. 7, 2010, while playing for Detroit.

Tagged: Hawks, Rockets

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