Oklahoma City pulled away from the Hawks in the second half en
route to a 101-92 victory Tuesday at the Philips Arena.
The Thunder (16-4), winners of three in a row, highlighted by
Sunday's impressive 118-94 rout of the Eastern Conference-leading
Indiana Pacers, remain a top-tier contender in the Western
Thunder forward Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points. His
breakaway dunk off a feed from guard Russell Westbrook capped a 13-0
Oklahoma City run, after the Hawks closed to within three, 78-75,
with 10:16 to play.
"We were able to take that punch and give a bigger punch back," said
Durant. "We always just tell each other 'weather the storm,' no
matter what. If they close the lead or if were down 20, just weather
the storm and keep working and keep pressing."
Down 10 midway through the fourth quarter, Hawks guard Shelvin Mack
and forward Paul Millsap fueled Atlanta's last charge. Mack's second
corner 3-pointer of the fourth quarter cut the Oklahoma City lead to
93-89 with 3:28 to play. But Westbrook would hit an up-and-under
reverse layup, and Durant would seal the win at the free-throw line.
Westbrook didn't shoot particularly well (6 of 21), but finished
with 14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
"Russell didn't shoot the ball well, but he had a great floor game,"
said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "There were a lot of good
performances on the defensive end. Anytime you hold an NBA team in
the thirties in shooting percentage, you're doing a good job
Behind Durant and backup point guard Reggie Jackson, the Thunder
threatened to pull away in the third quarter. The lead ballooned to
15, but Hawks point guard Jeff Teague would keep his team in the
game. Teague scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter.
Jackson hit two difficult shots late in the third quarter, including
a running pull-up jumper at the buzzer that gave the Thunder a 76-68
leading heading into the fourth.
Millsap finished with 23 points to lead the Hawks (11-11), whose
up-and-down season under new coach Mike Budenholzer continues.
Atlanta played hard for their new coach, but still lacks the star
power to threaten the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks
shot 35.6 percent on the night.
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"We competed, but we didn't play real well," said
Budenholzer. "I will take a competitive group, but I'd like it
if we played well also. We left a lot of points (on the board)."
Hawks guard Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer from the left wing early
in the third quarter to extend his NBA record streak to 91 games
with at least one made 3-pointer.
The Hawks held the Thunder to zero fast-break points in the
first quarter and did a good job of contesting Durant and
Westbrook around the rim. But Atlanta got sloppy late in the
second quarter, turning the ball over on bad decisions in the
paint, which led to Thunder run-outs. A Durant breakaway dunk
off a turnover from Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll extended the
Oklahoma City lead to seven. The Thunder took a 48-39 lead into
Atlanta turned it over six times in the second quarter, did not
score in the final two minutes of the half and shot just 33.3
percent from the field in the first two quarters.
"I felt like the whole first half we were missing layups," said
Budenholzer. "We missed some free throws, we missed some good
shots. Some nights the ball doesn't go in the basket and you
have to continue to play defense. I thought our defense gave us
a chance tonight to stay in the game."
NOTES: Oklahoma City rookie F Andre Roberson was moved into the
starting lineup in place of G Thabo Sefolsha, who sat out with a
knee sprain. ... The Hawks entered Tuesday's game having scored
100 points in four consecutive games. ... Atlanta's first-round
draft pick, C Lucas Nogueira, chose to suspend his contract with
his Spanish League team to address issues with his knees. ...
The Hawks scored 37 points in the first quarter of Friday's win
over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta scored 39 in the first
half against Oklahoma City. ... The Hawks will look to rebound
Friday, when the Washington Wizards visit. ... Oklahoma City
heads to Memphis on Wednesday to complete a
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