7:00 PM ET, December 31, 2011
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
HOUSTON -- Kyle Lowry delivered a career-high 18 assists, and a highlight-reel blocked shot for good measure.
Lowry Just Gives and Gives
Kyle Lowry had 18 assists for the Rockets on Saturday, the most in one game in the young NBA season. He tied his career best, set last December, and came close to setting an NBA record for assists with 2 points or fewer.
Most Assists with 2 or Fewer Points
Single Game, Last 25 Seasons
|1994||Muggsy Bogues||19*||2011||Kyle Lowry||18*|
|* Career high|
--ESPN Stats & Information
But if any of them were feeling tired in the fourth quarter, Lowry provided an emotional jolt, chasing down Jannero Pargo and swatting away his layup attempt near the 10-minute mark of a 95-84 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
"It was just one of those game-changing moments that he had for us," forward Chase Budinger said. "It was huge for us."
Lowry went 0 for 6 from the field, but spent the night setting up teammates with pinpoint passes.
"My teammates hit shots, that's what they're supposed to do," Lowry said. "Their job is to make shots. My job is to get them the ball, to make them comfortable to make shots."
Former Rocket Tracy McGrady scored 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He first entered the game with 3:57 left in the first quarter, and most fans greeted him with boos. McGrady played for the Rockets from 2004-10, a period defined more by injuries to him and Yao Ming than by team success.
McGrady returned to Houston last year when he played for Detroit and got a similar reception from the crowd.
"It's only my second time back to Houston," he said. "It is what it is. I'm used to it. I've been there before."
The Rockets, meanwhile, seem much more comfortable at the Toyota Center than they do on the road, at least through the first week of the season.
They also didn't trail in a 105-85 win over San Antonio on Thursday. They lost their opener in Orlando and were coming off a 113-93 loss in Memphis on Friday night, an effort that coach Kevin McHale ripped before Saturday's game.
Lowry thinks it's premature to call the disparity between their road and home performances a trend.
"It's too early for that," he said. "We're just going to go out there and play."
Houston was sharp from the opening tip against Atlanta, hitting nine of its first 11 shots, including two 3-pointers, to build a quick 22-11 lead.
"They played with an enormous amount of energy," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "If you watch the first half, you would've thought we were the team that got in at 3 o'clock in the morning."
The Hawks also played on Friday night, beating New Jersey at home, and McHale and Drew were already tapping their benches to rest their tired starters late in the opening quarter.
McGrady drove for a two-handed dunk with 8½ minutes left in the second quarter, cutting the Hawks' deficit to 36-28. The Rockets' shooting tapered off, and Josh Smith's three-point play with 3:27 left in the half drew Atlanta to within five.
Martin scored 13 points in the first half and Houston led 51-44 at the break.
The Hawks missed 10 of their first 13 shots in the third quarter, and the Rockets maintained their comfortable lead. Martin sank two 3s about a minute apart to stretch the lead to 68-53, Houston's biggest to that point.
Trailing by 12 after three quarters, Drew had all his starters on the bench for the start of the fourth.
After Lowry's block, the Hawks rallied, trimming the gap to 79-73 when McGrady took Jeff Teague's pass and dunked with 5:19 remaining.
Lowry delivered his 17th assist to Scola for a mid-range jumper with 2:09 to go, and Houston led 89-80. Martin put the game away with a long jumper with 90 seconds remaining, and Lowry matched his career high with another assist to Scola in the last minute.
"Lowry is a good player, he had a really good night," Drew said. "Good point guards still find a way to impact the game, whether they score or not."
Martin has scored at least 21 points in three straight games after going 1 for 10 from the field in the opening loss at Orlando. ... Lowry has at least eight assists in each of the Rockets' first four games. ... Atlanta plays seven of its first 11 games on the road, including games at Miami on Monday and Chicago on Tuesday. ... The Hawks and Rockets will not play again in the regular season.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-80 (.438)||38-82 (.463)|
|3PM-3PA||4-16 (.250)||9-19 (.474)|
|FTM-FTA||10-16 (.625)||10-13 (.769)|
|Fast Break Points||12||16|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||14 (1/0)||18 (2/0)|
Next 5 Games
Kyle Lowry finished with 18 assists on Saturday. That's the NBA high for the early season. It also ties his career best, set last December.
ESPN Stats & Information