The Hawks led by as many as 11 in the second quarter, but the Thunder battled back in the third, outscoring Atlanta 28-23 in the period. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Hawks guard Jannero Pargo is all that kept Atlanta from going into the fourth trailing.
Even after the Hawks took an eight-point lead following two straight monster dunks by Josh Smith (team-high 30 points and 12 rebounds), it felt like the Thunder would assemble another magical finish.
Oklahoma City started this three-game road trip by bouncing back from a brutal third quarter Wednesday at Philadelphia to secure a four-point win over the Sixers. One night later, the Thunder erased an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to win by three at Orlando.
This time, the shots wouldn't drop.
Ironically, when it was the Hawks all but trying to give away the game late with, of all things, turnovers, the Thunder couldn't capitalize.
Trailing 95-90 with one minute remaining, the Thunder missed its final four shots. After two misses, the Hawks gave the ball right back to the Thunder, the first time when Smith sent a pass sailing over Marvin Williams' head out of bounds, and again when point guard Jeff Teague was whistled for an offensive foul for pushing off on Royal Ivey as he brought the ball up court.
“They were good looks, but we probably settled for 3s,” Brooks said. “We were down five. I trust our defense. We score, we're down three. And then if we get a stop we can run a play for a 3. But they were good looks. I can't complain about those looks. … We make one of those we're down two with under 30 seconds.”
It wasn't to be.
Instead, the Thunder fell to 29-8 and felt the sting of a loss for the first time since Feb. 15.
“It's basketball, man. It's going to happen,” said Durant. “We got to figure out how we can get better.”