Kevin Durant's New Year's resolution for his Oklahoma City Thunder is a simple one.
â€œOne thing I want us to do is to make winning basketball plays,â€ Durant said.
The Thunder can look back on 2010 as the year in which it learned how.
Oklahoma City closed the book on the first portion of the 2010-11 season with a 103-94 win over Atlanta on Friday night inside Oklahoma City Arena. The victory bumped the Thunder to 23-11, marking the franchise's best record through December since 2004 when the team was in Seattle.
Dating back to Jan. 1, 2010, the Thunder is 55-29.
On Dec. 31, 2008, the Thunder defeated Golden State to move to 4-29.
â€œThis is a decent place for us to be right now,â€ Durant said. â€œWe could be a lot better. There are some games we gave away early on. But it's over with. It's a new year now.â€
Before ringing in the New Year, the Thunder proved it can stand tall against an Eastern Conference heavyweight and match the Hawks' physicality. The Hawks never led after the Thunder took a 7-6 lead with 9:15 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Thunder controlled the game by out-rebounding Atlanta, 42-36, and never allowing the Hawks to set the tone with its bruising frontcourt tandem of Al Horford and Josh Smith.
â€œThey rebound and defend as well as anybody we will play this year,â€ Brooks said. â€œI thought we did a good job of matching their strength of being as physical as they were.â€
After scoring a season-low 12 fourth-quarter points Monday against Dallas, the Thunder also showed improvement in the final period. OKC held Atlanta to 15 points and turned a four-point lead to start the fourth into an 11-point margin when it hampered the Hawks into 1-for-10 shooting to start the quarter.
Hawks leading scorer Joe Johnson struggled with his shot all night, missing 10 of his first 13 attempts before finishing with 16 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Johnson did finish with a game-high 11 assists, but he went 0-for-6 from behind the 3-point line and misfired on four of his five shots in the fourth quarter.
Durant, meanwhile, scored a game-high 33 points on 11-for-22 shooting. It was the seventh straight game that Durant has scored at least 25 points.
â€œKevin's been really good for about a month now,â€ Brooks said. â€œWe knew that he wasn't going to stay at a 38, 39 percent shooter. The guy's a good player â€¦ He's in a nice rhythm right now.â€
Russell Westbrook recorded his first triple-double of the year with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Westbrook's final assist, however, came on a last-second dunk by Serge Ibaka that Smith took exception to.
â€œI'm not going to let a mistake at the end of the game ruin what we've done tonight,â€ Brooks said.
The Thunder led by as many as 14 in the first half, but a string of second-quarter turnovers were costly and helped the Hawks cut the lead to seven at halftime. After not turning it over a single time in the first quarter, the Thunder committed eight turnovers in the second period and watched it lead to 12 Hawks points.
The Thunder had just four turnovers in the second half and pulled away by limiting the Hawks to 40 percent shooting in the second half.
OKC closed its four-game home stand at 3-1 and went 11-5 in December. A much tougher January schedule now awaits, with the first test tonight at San Antonio, which is a league-best 28-4.
â€œWe don't put a number on how many wins we want,â€ Brooks said when asked what he'd like to see out of his team in the New Year. â€œIf we do our job and control what we can control, things will always work themselves out.â€