It could have been over when...
...Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady was unavailable for the Houston Rockets.
...the Hawks won the opening tip and (6) seconds later was watching Josh Smith jam-in an alley-oop.
...Marvin Williams scored (13) first quarter points.
...Jamal Crawford hit a three and the Hawks started moving away late in the first half
...Marvin hit a three at the end of the first half, capping a (20) point half.
...the Hawks finished off a sluggish third quarter by actually extending the lead to (5) after Zaza Pachulia's third block of the game.
...Marvin grabbed his fifth offensive rebound of the night--doing so while he flew in from the baseline and slammed home an errant Joe Johnson fall-away--finishing off his (29) point night.
...Horford was rewarded for running the floor and slamming a charitable Joe Johnson fast break pass.
...Crawford cashed in another Johnson assist (he did have nine of them) for a three pointer that stretched the Hawks fourth quarter lead to (10) with just under two minutes left in the game.
...the Hawks blocked (11) shots to the Rockets (0) and outshot the visitors 50-43 percent and 8-20 vs 7-22 from 3-pt range.
It could have been over---but it wasn't.
No, the game was only over when Josh, shackled by foul trouble and likely only on the court because of Horford's foul disqualification seconds earlier, saw a Mike Bibby missed jumper come right to the front of the rim. In seeing it, Smith instinctively guided the ball to its home through the net with (7/10) of a second left on the clock. The timely eighth and ninth points of Smith's night ensured there would be no overtime in the Highlight Factory and the Hawks a 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.
Why was it close?
The Rockets, even without their All-Star injuries, are a pain in what the kids near THHB call "the derriere". (Well, THHB main offices are on a unique block--don't hate.)
They play energetic, physical, and give you nothing easy. At times in the game tonight, it looked like the entire roster was under the basket at both ends. Such presence led to a mind boggling (20) offensive rebounds and a whopping 52-40 advantage in points in the paint. Outshooting your opponent means little when they can simply collect the change and stick it in the toll.
Trevor Ariza made life somewhat more difficult for Joe, who had a 6-18 shooting night when he wasn't helping others score. Josh had trouble inside too--as the Rockets had made it clear the Hawks would have to find other ways to win other than simply driving into the paint.
The difference maker for the Birds was the inspiring play of Williams, who simply blew up as the Hawks made sure they made good on the old Mike Glenn adage "Feed Him and Fan Him". Marvin played some Stacheketball on the Rockets--taking it inside, hitting effortlessly from the outside, and making that oh-so-sweet putback late in the game that looked like it might deflate the Rockets for good.
It didn't, but on a night where the Hawks were like a pitcher that should have been knocked out in the third inning because they didn't have their best stuff, they stayed with it and outlasted a well coached Rockets team--like good teams do.