After watching Kevin Durant torch his Miami Heat for 36 points and 10 rebounds, Erik Spoelstra became the latest opposing coach to shower lofty praise upon Durant before leaving town. "I’m glad that we don’t play (the Thunder) again this year,” Spoelstra said. "Give us some time to figure him out. He is so big and skilled and can shoot it over the top of you. Even if you are there, he doesn’t even notice you. When he shoots it like he did (Saturday), it just makes it that much tougher. He has grown a lot. I remember in his rookie year, he was nothing like this.” Durant’s steady development is illustrated by his performance against Miami, a small glimpse of the strides the Thunder star has made in his first 2 1/2 seasons. In two games as a rookie against Miami, Durant averaged 21 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Last year, Durant averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists against the Heat. In this year’s two games against Miami, Durant averaged 34 points, 9.5 rebounds and four assists. His 14-of-18 shooting performance against the Heat on Saturday was a career best.
ROAD CHALLENGE LOOMSBeginning with today’s game at Atlanta, the Thunder will play its next four games on the road. It is the longest road trip of the season for Oklahoma City. The Thunder is a respectable 10-9 on the road this season, one of only seven teams with an above-.500 record away from home. After today’s game at Atlanta, the Thunder will travel to Minnesota for a Wednesday night game, followed by a game at Memphis on Friday and at Cleveland on Saturday. "It’s against all tough teams,” Durant said. "It’s going to be a good test for us. But we’re looking forward to it. I think on the road we’re starting to focus in and lock in.”
SCOUTING ATLANTAThe Hawks enter today’s game third in the Eastern Conference and riding a three-game winning streak. Atlanta is 16-4 at home and ranks seventh in scoring at 103.1 points per game. The Hawks, who average 107.9 points inside Philips Arena, are 19-5 when scoring 100 points or more and just 8-8 when they fail to reach triple digits. Five Hawks players average at least 10 points, led by Joe Johnson’s 21.2–point average. Versatile forward Josh Smith ranks fourth in blocked shots at 2.18 per game and 21st in total steals with 55.
QUOTABLE"This is a very good team...If they keep it up the way they have been playing they will be right there at the end of the year.” — Miami guard Dwyane Wade.