Thunder chemistry issue has nothing to do with James Harden being in Houston

On Sunday night, the Thunder was out-hustled and outsmarted. The Atlanta Hawks craved the basketball and took care of it once they corralled it.
by Berry Tramel Published: November 4, 2012

Seemed like fun for awhile. Kevin Martin returning James Harden's serve with a second quarter for the ages. Kevin Durant flirting with what would have been his first triple double.

But something is amiss in Thunderville.

The Thunder lost to the short-handed Hawks 104-95 Sunday night in a quiet Chesapeake Arena, and Harden's void didn't have anything to do with it. Unless The Beard took the Thunder's smarts and want-to with him to Houston.

“We're trying to win,” said Kendrick Perkins. “We're not really talking about the trade. The trade is done. We've got enough talent in here to win games.”

No kidding. Martin was sensational, with 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting. His 19-point second quarter, achieved with only five shots, gave OKC a 51-47 halftime lead but masked how badly the Thunder played.

The Thunder was out-hustled and outsmarted. Atlanta outscored OKC 16-8 in second-chance points and 31-16 in points off turnovers. In other words, the Hawks craved the ball and took care of it once they corralled it.

It's way too early to be concerned about the Thunder's record, although let's point out that at 1-2, OKC is a half game ahead of the 1-3 Lakers, whose start was labeled anywhere from disastrous to cataclysmic.

The remade Hawks were missing one of their cornerstones, Josh Smith, but took it the Thunder on both ends.

Atlanta shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter and would have finished the game over 50 percent if not for two late misses when the game was decided.

“Lack of focus on the defensive end,” Perk said. “We gave ‘em too much confidence in the first quarter.”

Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague got to the basket repeatedly, but his teammates were effective, too, so much so that Teague sat the entire fourth quarter.

Ivan Johnson, who didn't even play in the Hawks' opener, became Ivan the Terrible, with 10 points in 12 minutes.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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