ATLANTA — This, according to Russell Westbrook, is why Kevin Durant is the most lethal scorer alive.
The moment Westbrook stopped rolling Wednesday night is the exact point in time Durant said enough is enough and stepped up to deliver a second-half performance that simply was too much for Atlanta.
Durant scored 28 of his game- and season-high 41 points in the second half to lead Oklahoma City to a 100-92 win over the Hawks inside Philips Are na.
Durant closed the Hawks’ coffin with a jawdropping 18 fourth-quarter points that powered the Thunder to its 12th straight win while improving OKC’s record to a leaguebest 21-4.
“That’s why he’s the best scorer in the game,” Westbrook said. “He does that on a nightly basis for us. He wins games for us, and he’s the MVP right now.”
Westbrook wasn’t half bad himself.
He scored 21 of his 27 points in the first half, carrying the Thunder to a 17-point first-half lead when little else was going right offensively for OKC.
And that is what makes the Thunder’s duo the most dangerous in basketball.
As soon as one All-Star gets stopped, the other starts to sizzle. It’s a pickyour-poison proposition.
“There’s going to be nights where one has the hot hand, and there’s going to be nights the other guy does,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But there’s going to also be nights where neither of them does so they have to rely on their team. That’s why I think we made the big jump passing the ball this year.”
Westbrook registered a game-high 11 assists for his team-leading 10th doubledouble and his eighth game with at least 10 assists. But as the game wore on, and Durant got more and more dialed in, the mission became simple: get Durant the ball.
“My job is to find a way to get him easy ones, whether it’s a layup, a dunk, a fast break or whatever it is,” Westbrook said. “And I know once he gets that, it’s over.”
The Thunder led 55-41 at halftime and shot 50 percent largely thanks to Westbrook’s hot start. But the Thunder got stuck in mud in the third quarter when Westbrook cooled off.
Atlanta held OKC to just 18 points in the third quarter, one more than its season-low for the period. Westbrook missed all four of his shots in the frame, and Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin and Nick Collison combined to go 0-for-8.
“I’ve seen it so many times,” Brooks said. “I know when he gets hot it’s hard to turn him off. And he was hot in that second half.”
Durant scored 10 points in the third quarter, making four of seven shots to bump his point total to 23 heading into the fourth. That’s when the real fireworks began.
Durant and Westbrook checked back in with 10:01 remaining, slightly earlier than normal after the Hawks pulled within four. Durant proceeded to score 18 of the Thunder’s final 25 points.
He got an offensive rebound and putback layup. He then walked into a deep 3-pointer off a feed from Thabo Sefolosha for a quick five straight.
“I felt it when Thabo hit me on the 3-pointer when I was trailing at the top of the key,” Durant said. “After that shot, I felt like I had a nice rhythm going and I just tried to exploit the matchups.”
His next bucket was a breakaway dunk that Hawks forward Josh Smith dang near clothes-lined him on as he powered it through. After flushing it, Durant walked toward the Hawks crowd, puffed out his chest and proclaimed “This is my (expletive) house.”
“Uh,” Durant smiled and said, “I don’t remember that.”
He made the foul shot, bumping the lead back to 10.
The Hawks made another push, cutting it to five again. Durant hit a 3. Then two free throws. Then a fadeaway over two defenders.
His 41st point came on a 3-pointer with 2:15 left to play.
“I think the best part about it is my teammates wanted me to shoot,” Durant said. “They wanted me to take the tougher shots. They wanted me to shoot over two people. So that always gives me confidence. And I just tried to go out there and come through for us.” OKC’s Kevin Durant, left, drives against Atlanta’s Anthony Tolliver during the Thunder’s 100-92 win on Wednesday. Durant scored a season-high 41 points.