The Hawks started the game strong, taking an early four point lead, and kept it close in the first quarter, but the second unit came in and the Hawks never were able to regain any offensive rhythm. The Thunder led by double-digits for most of the second and third quarter, and it appeared as though they would get the win going away. To the Hawks credit they battled back late in the third quarter and in the fourth to keep it close, cutting the lead down to four in the fourth quarter. However, despite the comeback, the Hawks were unable to find an answer for Kevin Durant down the stretch and the Hawks offense stagnated early on when they had a good chance to possibly take a lead. While the defense tightened up early in the fourth, the offense struggled, scoring just nine points in the first six-plus minutes of the quarter.
Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 19 points and nine assists and was the only Hawk that seemed able to penetrate the Thunder defense. Josh Smith's stat line of 17 points and 12 assists does not tell the full story of his night, as he really struggled down the stretch, most notably a possession in the middle in the fourth with the Hawks down seven when he was stuffed by Kevin Durant twice before turning it over. Smith's shooting struggles continued as he went just 8-of-19 from the field and was 0-of-3 from the free throw line. Al Horford finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Lou Williams gave the Hawks 13 points off the bench.
The biggest issue for the Hawks was shot selection as they shot 38.3% from the field, and if you take away Jeff Teague's efficient 9-of-13 night the rest of the team shot 27-of-81 (33.3%). The Hawks also struggled from the line hitting just 11-of-17 (64.7%) from the charity stripe (which has not been charitable to the Hawks this year.
The Thunder did not fare much better, as they shot just 42.9% from the field, but they hit their free throws, hitting 19-of-20 (95%) from the line (That 8 made FT difference ended up being the difference in the game). Kevin Durant was quiet early, scoring just 13 in the first half, but caught fire down the stretch scoring 18 of his 41 in the fourth quarter to finish with a monster 41 point, 13 rebound double-double and almost single-handedly dashed the Hawks comeback hopes. Russell Westbrook dominated in the first half, scoring 21 of his 27 before halftime, and he too finished with a double-double with 27 points and 11 assists.
The Thunder also out-rebounded the Hawks 52-44, but it was the Hawks lack of ball-movement that really hurt them, especially early. The Hawks finished the game with 21 assists, which is slightly below their average of 22.5 apg, but early on they settled for too many isolation attempts.
"We weren't sharp executing our sets. That resulted in some bad shots," said Larry Drew. "We had a lot of bad shots in the first half, and it was the reason why we got down. When you play against a good team you have to trust [the offense] and it's not a time to fragment. I thought early we just played too much one-on-one and it resulted in a lot of bad shots."
"We didn't do a good job of moving the ball from side-to-side [in the first half]. We got stagnant.," said Josh Smith. "They're very long, young and athletic, so when you don't move the ball side-to-side against somebody that can really play defens, you're going to struggle."
The Thunder's biggest run came in the second quarter when the Hawks second unit was on the floor. That bench unit was unable to find any offensive rhythm and put the Hawks in a hole they never were able to climb out of.
"[The second unit] didn't do things with urgency as far as running the offense," said Drew. "We didn't execute and set screens, we didn't run with pace, and against a team like Oklahoma City you have to do that. You can't come down and play on one side of the floor. I thought a couple times we broke the play and went one-on-one which resulted in a bad shot or a turnover."
In the third quarter the referees became a story, with Al Horford picking up a technical after a no-call on a clear foul, and later Smith got a technical due to built up frustration over no-calls. Smoove has a propensity for arguing calls and no-calls and his technical could be looked at as just another in a long line of them, but for Horford it was completely out of character, which he noted.
"We didn't get a good feel of how the game was being called. It was frustrating for us and even for me, it's rare to see me out of character like that, but I'm pretty sure if you looked at the replay, I drove to the basket and got hit on the arm. What I don't like is when they say, 'Well if you made it it's no foul, but if you miss it we'll call it,' but in this case nothing happened there and it's kind of like, you know, so that was frustrating for that to keep happening. That's part of the game though. We still had a good chance to get in there and make something out of the game and maybe win it."
The Hawks comeback efforts were spurred on by some inspired play in the third and fourth quarters by Zaza Pachulia (5 points, 10 rebounds) and Anthony Tolliver (6 points, 3 rebounds). However, despite their energetic play, the Hawks could never get the game closer than four points before Durant took over and made it a 100-92 final.
After this tough loss the Hawks will have a day to rest-up before heading off for another road-home back-to-back that starts in Philadelphia Friday night with the 76ers and ends Saturday night back in Atlanta to take on the Chicago Bulls.