Rockets-Hawks Preview

The Atlanta Hawks are on the verge of matching their longest

winning streak of the season thanks in large part to Jamal

Crawford’s recent play.

Looking for a sixth straight win overall, the Hawks will try for

an 11th consecutive home victory when they face the struggling

Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Atlanta (26-14) has played only one game in the last six days,

defeating Toronto 104-101 on Wednesday night – a day after the

Hawks’ home meeting with Milwaukee was postponed due to a winter

storm.

Mike Bibby made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining,

but it was Crawford who earned high praise from teammates for his

season-high 36-point effort.

“He’s a guy who can really heat up and score in bunches and he

did that (Wednesday),” Joe Johnson said of Crawford. “He was

basically unstoppable in the first half. When you’ve got guys like

that coming off the bench, you’re a tough team.”

Last season’s NBA sixth man of the year, Crawford is averaging

27.2 points – 10.6 more than his season mark – in his last six

games while going 19 of 41 from 3-point range (46.3 percent). The

Hawks are 9-3 when he scores at least 20 points.

Johnson, too, has too come up big during his team’s five-game

run, averaging 27.2 points on 52.1 percent shooting from the field.

The Hawks haven’t won six straight since starting the season

6-0.

Their 10-game home winning streak – in which they’ve defeated

opponents by an average of 11.1 points – is the second-longest

active run in the league behind San Antonio’s 14 in a row.

The overall winning streak has come entirely with Marvin

Williams sidelined due to a back injury. Although Williams has

averaged 20.5 points in his last two games versus Houston, he’s

unlikely to return for this game.

Atlanta had lost three straight to the Rockets before taking the

last three meetings by a combined 12 points.

Despite leading by as many as 16 points in the third quarter

Friday night against New Orleans, the Rockets (17-23) lost 110-105

in overtime as they allowed at least 100 points for a 10th

consecutive game – their longest such stretch since surrendering

100-plus points in 25 straight from March 8-April 24, 1988.

Following a season-best five-game winning streak, Houston finds

itself mired in a 2-8 skid.

“You’ve got to make it not happen,” guard Kyle Lowry said of the

late-game collapse. “You’ve got to take some type of stand and not

let that happen. We went through a good stretch where we were

finishing games very good. But we’re going back through a stretch

where we are finishing games bad.”

Lowry scored a career high-tying 28 points Friday while Kevin

Martin returned after missing two games with a sore right wrist and

finished with 26.

Martin, who ranks 11th in the league with 23.3 points per game,

is averaging 29.5 in his last four games and 28.8 in his last four

versus Atlanta.

The Rockets, though, have struggled from long distance in their

last five games, shooting 30.0 percent from beyond the arc, and

things aren’t about to get any easier against a Hawks team holding

opponents to an NBA-low 32.2 percent from 3-point range.