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Hawks vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Hawks vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Hawks (13-14, 6-8 road) vs. Thunder (16-11, 11-5 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (19th), Hawks – 101.6 (23rd)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (10th), Hawks – 102.6 (9th)

Twenty-two assists. Let that sink in for a moment. There are games where the Oklahoma City Thunder, as a team, don’t even get anywhere close to that amount of assists. Granted those are usually the ugly games where the team is getting blown out by the time the 4th quarter begins. But still, for someone who has spent the majority of his career having to defend his position as a point guard, those 22 assists had to be, at the very least, a little satisfying.

And yes, it was against the lowly Phoenix Suns, who have more teenagers on their roster than most contending mid-major basketball schools. But that still does not matter. Westbrook was surgical with his passes. He found back-door cutters, screen rollers, and open shooters all night long. Of course, there are two parts to the assist game: the person the receiving end of that pass has to make the shot. The thing with Westbrook is that his presence creates so much chaos for the defense (and let’s be honest, sometimes also for the offense) that guys usually find the ball in their hands in great positions to score. As long as Victor Oladipo is out, Westbrook will have to be this kind of Westbrook for the Thunder to have a chance at winning.

Season Series Recap

This is the second and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder won the first meeting in Atlanta, 102-99, behind a (you guessed it) Westbrook triple-double (32 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists).

The Opponent

The Hawks come into this game with a 13-14 record. After a promising 9-2 start to the season, the Hawks have proceeded to go 4-12 in their 16 games since then. The departures of Al Horford and Jeff Teague in the offseason have bitten the Hawks offensively, as Dennis Schröder has been inconsistent at times this year and Dwight Howard provides no kind of spacing. In addition, the Hawks have taken enough of a step backwards defensively that the lack of offensive resonates even more.


  • Cameron Payne (foot)
  • Victor Oladipo (wrist)

3 Big Things

1. Rebounding

The Thunder and Hawks are extremely close to each other in every rebound statistic, with the Thunder being the better offensive rebounding team, while the Hawks are the better defensive rebounding team. Of note for this game: Dwight Howard is questionable with a sore back. If he can’t go, the Thunder will have to take full advantage of their opportunities on the glass.

2. The War in the Paint

The Thunder lead the league in paint scoring with 50.5 points per game. The Hawks are the 7th best in the league at defending the paint, allowing just 40.7 points from the painted area. If the Thunder are able to put their stamp on this game, this is where they will win the game.

3. Steven Adams

I don’t know if he’s just getting healthier or just more comfortable in his offensive role, but Adams has been playing great ball for the past couple of weeks. In the last 5 games, Adams is averaging 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 70% shooting from the field and from the free throw line. He’s been a lot more aggressive and the team is posting him up more throughout the game. The match-up between he and Dwight Howard is always fun as they have similar games, but if Howard can’t go tonight, look for the Thunder to get Adams some looks early.