Kevin Durant comes in clutch again with 28 second half points against the Hawks after the Hawks came out hot in the third quarter, only allowing 18 thunder points. Durant had a double-double with 41 points and 13 rebounds in the game to go with 2 big blocked shots and 3 assists. Russell Westbrook added on another double-double with 27 points after shooting 9-21 (8-8 FT) and 11 assists. The Thunder extended their win streak to 12 games, and improved their still league-best record to 21-4.
The hawks made it a close first quarter after only trailing 20-23 at the end of it, but the thunder came out to play in the second quarter to end the half with a 55-41 lead and holding the Hawks to 38% shooting while shooting 50% themselves. Josh smith shot just under 50% finishing with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds. Al Horford shot poorly from the floor just making 5 of 14 shots and only scored 13 points.
A big spark off the bench and to ignite the Thunder in the second quarter was Jeremy Lamb. He came out and scored a quick five points in five minutes on 2-for-3 shooting. The thunder went on a run from there to halftime, out scoring the Hawks 32-21 in the quarter. The Hawk’s run in the third quarter helped them get within four points at one point, but every time they would start to close the game, someone would make a block or steal, leading to a transition bucket and extending the lead again.
Serge Ibaka shot poorly tonight only hitting 2 out of 9 shots and scoring just 4 points. Despite being in-effective on the offensive end, Ibaka racked in 14 rebound, 4 of them offensive rebounds, and 3 block shots. Ibaka is second in the league in block shots this season with 3.0 a game, coming off last season where he lead the league, and was the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up to Dwight Howard.
Jeff Teague was big for the Hawks tonight scoring 19 points on 9-13 shooting and helped the Hawks close the gap several times but was unable to take the lead. A big advantage for the Hawks was the turn overs as OKC turned the ball over 15 times tonight while the Hawks managed the keep their turn overs down to 11. The Hawks certainly are a respected defense in the league as they are second in forced turn overs, but that still wasn’t enough to hold the thunder below 100 points.
Kevin Durant had 2 big 3s in the fourth quarter to give the thunder back a double-digit lead and close out the Hawks on a 3 game road trip that continues in Minnesota tomorrow night, and the Heat on Christmas, before returning home to play the Mavericks.
Keys to the Game
A big key to for the Thunder tonight was out rebounding the Hawks and boxing out Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Zaza Pachulia and getting extra posessions. While Smith and Pachulia still grabbed 12 and 10, The Thunder still out-rebounded the Hawks 52-44 tonight and was a big reason they came away with a win.
The Thunder lead the league in turn overs last year and though that have improved a lot this season, they still have times were they can get out of control and turn the ball over. Kevin Durant had a rare two back-to-back posessions were he turned the ball over and that was a big reason the Hawks were able to close the gap and make the game interesting for the Thunder. If the Thunder can limit their turn overs they will have a better chance at winning ball games.
Ball Movement: B+
In order for the Thunder to have rhythm offensively they need to share the ball. Tonight the Thunder had 20 team assists, 11 which came from Russell Westbrook, and it helped them get crucial buckets from spacing the floor in key moments. Westbrook has continued to develop as a playmaker and as a result he is having career-high assist averages. This has also helped the Thunder continue to have threat from the wings as they space the floor and often find Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin open from outside.
Written by Seth O’Connor. Seth is an aspiring sports writer, that happens to be a huge Thunder fan. You can follow Seth here on his twitter account: @SethryBaws.