Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew is glad to see his team finally competing with some playoff-caliber intensity.
Coach Rick Adelman will need to see more of that type of effort if his Houston Rockets are going to advance to the postseason.
The Hawks go for their fifth straight victory Sunday night when they try to snap the Rockets’ six-game home winning streak.
After Atlanta allowed 98.9 points per game on 48.0 percent shooting during a 3-8 stretch from March 4-23, Drew has been pleased with his team’s defensive effort during its winning streak. The Hawks’ opponents are averaging 83.8 points and hitting 42.6 percent in the last four contests.
“I’ve been waiting for this kind of quality effort,” Drew said after Atlanta rallied from 12 down in the third quarter Friday for an 88-83 home win over Boston. “Certainly I see signs, but I’m not going to go out on a limb and say they’re there.”
While the Hawks (44-32) will likely finish fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Rockets (40-36) need to continue their push over their final six games - and get some help - to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Houston, which has won seven of nine overall, opened a three-game homestand Friday with a 119-114 overtime victory over league-best San Antonio. The Rockets hung on after their 11-point third-quarter lead was erased.
“It was a win that, when you look back on it, with everything that was riding (on it), playing the best team in the league, you have to give our guys a lot of credit - they never cracked,” Adelman said.
The Rockets remain in ninth place in the West, but they still need to close a significant gap if they hope to reach the postseason.
The Rockets were used to winning at home against Atlanta, but the Hawks ended a 10-game skid in Houston in their last visit, a 102-95 victory Jan. 25, 2010. Atlanta had won just once in its previous 17 road games in this series.
With help from Scola’s 20 points and 16 apiece from Kyle Lowry(notes) and Jordan Hill(notes), the Rockets returned the favor Jan. 15, ending Atlanta’s 10-game home winning streak with a 112-106 victory.
Rockets leading scorer Kevin Martin(notes) had just 10 points in that matchup, but he has been outstanding lately, scoring 26.3 points per game - 3.0 more than his season average - during the team’s 7-2 run.
Four other Hawks are scoring at least 13.0 points per game during this run - Atlanta’s longest since a five-game streak Jan. 2-12.
Houston’s home winning streak is its longest since a season-high eight-game surge from Nov. 24-Dec. 27.