Kevin C. Cox
The Thunder followed the lead of their two superstars to victory as Kevin Durant (41 points, 13 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists) dominated the game on their way to a 100-92 win over the Hawks.
The Atlanta Hawks got off to a hot start taking an early 10-6 lead, but the second unit cooled the Hawks off and they were never able to recover. The Hawks had a 19-17 lead with two minutes to go in the first quarter and from there the Thunder took over. The Hawks went with a Lou Williams, John Jenkins, Anthony Morrow, Ivan Johnson, Zaza Pachulia lineup that struggled to create any offense. The Thunder had their second unit in, but got production from Kevin Martin (6 points), Jeremy Lamb (5 points), and the most unlikely of sources, Hasheem Thabeet (6 points). By the time the Hawks starters returned, the deficit had climbed to 32-23 and the Thunder's first unit had returned as well.
At the half, the Thunder have a 55-41 lead by 21 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals from Russell Westbrook and 13 points from Kevin Durant. Atlanta was led by Jeff Teague's 10 points, Al Horford's eight points, and Anthony Morrow's eight points off the bench. Atlanta was out-rebounded 25-15 and shot just 37.8% from the field and a dismal 27.3% from three-point range. The Hawks will have to find an offensive rhythm in the second half and find a way to disrupt Westbrook, who is getting whatever he wants.
The third quarter started poorly as well for the Hawks, who were battling not only a very good Thunder team, but also the referees. Josh Smith and Al Horford each got technical fouls arguing with the referees and the Hawks focus seemed more on the calls than on the game. During that stretch the Thunder extended their lead to as much as 16 points, and with two minutes remaining in the quarter were up by 15. The Hawks clawed back into it behind some good production from Zaza Pachulia and Anthony Tolliver off the bench. Their energy was infectious on both ends and helped the Hawks cut the Thunder lead to 73-67 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hawks stuck with that same unit for the beginning of the fourth quarter with good success. Tolliver continued to play well including a massive dunk that brought the Philips crowd to their feet. The Hawks trimmed the lead to four, but could never get over the hump. Kevin Durant took over midway through the fourth quarter. Durant hit a pair of big threes on his way to an 18 point quarter. Any time the Hawks made a push, Durant pushed back with a basket of his own. The Hawks played a gritty game in the latter stages, but too much bad shooting early and letting Westbrook and Durant have their way left them too far behind to finish the comeback.
Durant finished the game with 41 points and 13 rebounds, while Westbrook ended with 27 points and 11 assists. The Thunder defense frustrated the Hawks both inside and out for most of the game, and the Hawks shot just 38.3% from the field. Oklahoma City was held to 42.9% from the field, but went 19-of-20 from the free throw line compared to the Hawks 11-of-17. The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague’s 19 points and nine assists and Josh Smith’s 17 points and 12 rebounds. Lou Williams’ 13 off the bench proved not enough to lift the Hawks down the stretch. The Thunder’s early lead was built on bad Hawks shooting and Russell Westbrook’s hot start and despite a Hawks run in the third and fourth quarters, Kevin Durant was sure to close it out in style.
The Thunder improve to 21-4 with the win, and set a franchise-record with 12 straight victories. The loss drops Atlanta to 15-8, but they remain third in the East. Atlanta has another back-to-back this weekend and will take on the 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday before coming back to Atlanta for the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, a match-up between the third and fourth teams in the East.