Thunder 111, Hawks 104
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at Atlanta.
- This was a quality win. No, Josh Smith didn’t play. And, yes, Al Horford was in foul trouble throughout the first half. But for the Thunder to come to Atlanta, where the Hawks were 18-9, and pretty much control things from start to finish was impressive.
- Even more impressive is how the Thunder has essentially dominated its last two opponents despite incorporating and adjusting to a new starting lineup. Keep in mind, the Thunder had the same starting lineup for the equivalent of about two seasons. It shouldn’t be taking lightly how fast and how well the guys are playing together.
- What a weird game. The Thunder hits seven of 18 3s, shoots 50 percent throughout the entire night, scores 111 points and shoots only 21 free throws. Before Daequan Cook buried a pair of foul shots with 10.8 seconds left, the Hawks had made more free throws (20) than the Thunder attempted (19).
- Kevin Durant is a gamer. That pretty much sums up his performance tonight. Yesterday he was listed as doubtful because of a sprained left ankle. This morning he was a game-time decision. Tonight, he played a team-high 40 minutes, scored a game-high 29 points and added eight rebounds and five assists for good measure.
- Here’s what Durant said about playing tonight: “I was trying to get enough treatment to fight through the pain tonight and just play. We needed this one tonight.”
- Russell Westbrook was forcing it a little at times tonight. But his passing and aggressiveness really made a huge impact in this one. And that 3-ball with 1:12 left was the dagger. It came out of nowhere. Minutes earlier, he had passed on another 3-point opportunity as Kirk Hinrich deliberately backed off him.
- Westbrook missed a lot of bunnies tonight. Unlike him.
- With 27 points off 16 Atlanta turnovers tonight, the Thunder has now scored 51 points off 31 turnovers the past two games. That means 51 points of the Thunder’s 224 points the last two games have come off turnovers. Couple that with a 48-for-55 clip from the foul line, and that’s a dynamite recipe for how to make teams pay. Think about that: 44 percent of the Thunder’s scoring in the last two games has come off turnovers or at the foul line.
- Apparently the cameras caught me nearly getting decapitated by a loose ball. I saw the play unfolding all the way. I just thought someone was going to come up with the rock. Never crossed my mind that I was going to have to flinch like a scared front row fan at the last minute. I should have had my hands up. But was it that bad on TV? I immediately got a boatload of messages on Twitter checking to see if I was still alive.
- Someone on Twitter asked me why Cook is wearing a sleeve on his shoulder. I was told he got hit in that area a game or two ago and is wearing it for protection. Nothing serious.
- Joe Johnson is such a tough cover. He’s a difficult matchup for just about every team in the league. But seeing him back down Thabo Sefolosha with almost a smile on his face really made it hit home how much of a mismatch he is.
- With that said, the Thunder will live with Johnson scoring a team-high 24 points on 24 shots every day of the week.
- Here’s something that apparently is not recession proof: the Atlanta Hawks dance team. Not sure what was going down here in ATL, but I counted eight dancers. Eight!
- I mentioned this on Twitter. But when KD had a driving and one, Kendrick Perkins met him in front of the team’s bench and slapped his chest twice…really, really hard. Durant’s expression changed immediately, like, ‘Dude, that was a little too hard. I did something good.’ Durant laughed about it after the game and essentially said something along those lines did cross his mind.
- Just 10 turnovers for the Thunder tonight. The Hawks scored only nine points off them.
- James Harden was great in the first half. It might have been the best I’ve ever seen him play. He was aggressive attacking the rim and was playing with a great deal of confidence. He was 6-for-11 in the first half, but his final line was ruined with a 1-for-5 shooting performance in the second half. Still, his efforts in the first 24 minutes cannot be written off.
- Time for the Thunder to make up ground on the top three or create separation between themselves and 5 through 8. Next on the schedule is Phoenix, Memphis, Philly, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington. Is it expecting too much to think anything less than 5-1 would be a disappointment?
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