The Atlanta Hawks bounced back in a big way Monday night with a 106-100 win over an Oklahoma City team that is playing good basketball. The Hawks would never admit it, but they needed a win over a quality opponent to get their season headed back in the right direction. The victory put a nice stamp on what was a grueling month of November.
"Oklahoma City, they have one of the elite teams in our league," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "To compete with them and find a way to win, and it was a game that had some runs - they made a huge run at the end of the second quarter. For us to gather ourselves after taking that punch, I think we went down four late in the fourth quarter. Again, we were able to gather and make enough plays down the stretch. Lots of different guys played well. Defensively, I thought Thabo made it as tough as possible on Durant. Paul and Al in the paint rebounding and blocking shots. Collectively, it's a good win for our group and hopefully we can build on this."
Budenholzer was clearly pleased with the resiliency that his team showed both in the game in bouncing back from Saturday's lopsided loss in San Antonio.
"This was a game that we needed badly," said Jeff Teague who finished with 25 points and served as the team's closer down the stretch. "That's a good team that they have over there. Competitors just compete. We needed a win bad, so we just came out and played well."
To secure the win, Budenholzer had to lean a bit harder on his starters in terms of minutes played. All five starters played at least 31 minutes led by Thabo Sefolosha's 38. Sefolosha went scoreless in the game, but his presence defensively was something Atlanta couldn't do without.
"Just the effort that he puts in on the defensive end of the court, to basically do everything he can to limit Durant," Budenholzer said when asked about Sefolosha's performance. "I thought it was just a great individual defensive performance." Durant finished with 25 points on 9 of 18 shooting, but scored just four points in the fourth quarter and attempted only four shots over the final 12 minutes.
"I thought the defense behind Thabo helped him and put him in a position where he could have success," Budenholzer added. The fact that he didn't have a bucket doesn't matter. All of the other things he did, it's winning basketball that Thabo played tonight."
At the end, it came down to a battle between the point guards. Teague was clearly miffed at his subpar performance against the Spurs and did his best to offset Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the fourth.
"I know he's capable of getting hot and making plays like that," Teague said when asked about Westbrook. "He's been doing it all year and for his whole career basically. You try to just get back and match him basically, and try your best to get a stop. Then make sure you get a bucket on the other end.
Teague scored 10 of his 25 in the fourth quarter including six straight points in the final 1:09 of the game.
"We played well," Teague said smiling. "As a group, we played hard. Guys competed at both ends."