Hawks will have hands full vs. Harden, Rockets

Trae Young put up a yeoman effort on Friday night, and the end result was the Atlanta Hawks' ninth straight loss.

Young's "reward" is going up against James Harden on the second end of a road back-to-back when the Hawks visit the Houston Rockets on Saturday.

Young matched his career high with 49 points, but his stellar sharpshooting couldn't end the club's skid as Atlanta fell 105-104 in overtime against the Indiana Pacers.

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The second-year point guard was 16 of 28 from the field and made 8 of 15 3-point attempts, while the club's other four starters had just 19 points on 8-of-31 shooting.

But Young wasn't pointing fingers at anyone but himself.

"I guess it was good individually," Young told reporters afterward. "People that know me know I don't care at all. If we don't win, none of that matters. I didn't do enough. That's the way I look at it."

The big outing marked the ninth time Young has scored 30 or more points this season in 18 appearances. It was his second time over 40.

Young's scoring average sits at 27.9, but the sizzling performances aren't leading to victories. The Hawks haven't won since Nov. 12 when Young had 42 points and 11 assists in a stunning 125-121 road victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Yet he sees close calls like Friday in Indianapolis as a sign that a turnaround isn't far off despite the team's 4-15 record.

"It's early in the season," Young said. "You take these games as lessons and you can flip it around just like that. That's my mindset. That's why I'm so excited. We've been in a lot of games and we're right there. We'll turn this thing around."

While Young played 43 minutes on Friday, Harden is well-rested as the Rockets haven't played since Wednesday. That contest was Houston's lone action in a five-day span.

Harden leads the NBA with a 37.7 scoring average, and he has tallied 40 or more points on seven occasions, including a high of 59.

The two-time reigning scoring champion appears more lethal this season due to the presence of former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.

Teams can overload with defenders in an attempt to slow Harden but then Westbrook may be left open. But trying to play Harden straight up has proven to be a tough proposition.

"Nobody's really doubled that much," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters in comparison to recent seasons. "The strategy is, 'Let's see. Let's double James and leave Russell completely open who is an MVP.' I don't know. That's kind of risky. We have other problems to solve. I think James handles it really well."

Harden, the 2017-18 MVP, made seven 3-pointers while scoring 34 points in Wednesday's 117-108 home victory over the Miami Heat.

Westbrook (27 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) and small forward Danuel House Jr. (career-best 23 points) provided complementary help against the Heat as Houston halted a three-game slide.

House and center Clint Capela are both listed as doubtful for Saturday's game due to illnesses. Capela missed Wednesday's game.

"(Capela is) still under the weather, but you never know, (he's) day-to-day," D'Antoni said. "I think it's uncertain. He wakes up feeling better, he's going to play, but he's still hurting a little bit."

Capela's illness opened some playing time for reserve forward Gary Clark, who scored a season-best 12 points and tied his high of eight rebounds in 29 minutes against the Heat.

"Gary really gave us some nice minutes that gave us a boost," D'Antoni said. "That was a very pleasant surprise. If he can give us that and we go small, then that's found money."

The Rockets have won the past four meetings with the Hawks. Atlanta has traditionally had problems in Houston, winning just five of its last 27 visits.

--Field Level Media

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