Hawks bring five-game win streak into game with Rockets

ATLANTA — If the Atlanta Hawks want to extend their five-game winning streak against the Houston Rockets, they'll have to find a way to stop point guard James Harden.

The Rockets visit the Hawks on Saturday night at Philips Arena.

Atlanta has won five straight against Houston and has a three-game winning streak at Philips Arena. The Rockets haven't beaten the Hawks since Nov. 27, 2013.

The Rockets (3-2) have been off since Wednesday, when they thumped the New York Knicks 118-99 behind Harden's 30 points and 15 assists. “The Beard” did it by scoring on a convincing mix of drives to the hoop and 3-pointers.

“It's becoming normal and that's a good thing,” Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. “He's such a weapon and it's hard to figure out how to stop him. He does a little bit of everything. He just plays the game the way it's supposed to be played.”

This season, Harden is averaging 31.8 points (fourth-best in the NBA) and a league-leading 12.4 assists, along with 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals. He has not scored fewer than 28 points in a game this season.

“We've got so many offensive weapons that it makes my job a lot easier,” Harden said. “I've just to pick my spots and make the right plays. It's the most fun I've had in a long time. As a collective group, we're hanging together. Everything's not going to perfect, but we'll fight through it.”

Harden brings a solid history against Atlanta. In 11 games, he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 steals. Last season, he scored 26 in both meetings against the Hawks.

Houston has three other players who average double figures: Eric Gordon (17.6), Ryan Anderson (12.2) and Trevor Ariza (11.4). Clint Capela leads with 7.6 rebounds and Anderson adds 7.0.

The Hawks (3-2) have lost two straight games and were beaten 95-92 by previously winless Washington on Friday night, a game that saw center Dwight Howard and point guard Dennis Schroder each score 20 points. Atlanta missed its first nine shots and got behind 9-0 before actually taking the lead briefly in the second period.

Atlanta will need to recover from some bickering that occurred in the final minutes of the game when Kent Bazemore, who was held scoreless, entered the game in place of Tim Hardaway Jr. That led to an exchange between Hardaway and coach Mike Budenholzer, which both sides downplayed afterward.

“It's the heat of the moment and I just want to win,” Hardaway said. “Everybody wants to be out there. Coach's decision. You've got to roll with it. At the same time, you have to be on the sideline supporting your teammates.”

Budenholzer said, “I think it's good. We are an edgy group. We want to get it right.”

Atlanta is led in scoring by forward Paul Millsap, who is scoring 16.8 points and adding 7.8 rebounds. Howard averages 16.4 points and 12 rebounds.