With the Thunder down two and about 40 seconds left to go, Russell Westbrook took a handoff from Kyle Singler, drove into the lane and hit a tough shot over Kyle Korver to tie the game.
Russ had been making tough shots all night, and he had just hit another one (with a lot of contact). The Hawks had an answer on the other end on what looked to be a defensive miscommunication between Russ and Andre Roberson as both defenders stayed on Kyle Korver as Paul Millsap rolled toward the basket and had a short jumper to take the lead. Russ took the rebound, fired up a shot (again a lot of contact), grabbed his own miss but was unable to convert.
The Thunder had one final chance with 2.9 seconds left, down by 2. Kyle Singler got the ball into Westbrook who took a contested 3. Russ thought he was fouled as the ball fell well short of the basket and into the hands of Steven Adams. Adams, instead of laying it up, went for the dunk… but the buzzer had already sounded. Game. Hawks.
After coming off a career-high 22 assists on Saturday night against the Suns, Westbrook decided to take over this game in a different way. The Thunder started off in a severe shooting drought and it lasted all the way through the first quarter with the Hawks up 22 – 16. Russ then decided that he was going to get this offense going one way or another and he did just that scoring 18 in the 2nd quarter. He finished the game with 46 points on 16-33 shooting. He was able to score inside, hit a few from deep (while not shooting a great percentage) and get to the line (11 – 13).
Westbrook also got some scoring help from the bench, who put up 38 points in total, a few above their season average of 34.9 Jerami Grant with a season high 15 points and Alex Abrines with 9, led the way for the OKC reserves.
With Oladipo out again, the starters, outside of Westbrook, did not shoot well at all going a combined 8 of 26 from the floor. Roberson did hit 3 from downtown (including 2 of them back-to-back), but overall was a disappointing 5 – 14. Steven Adams, along with the last play, had a disappointing night on the offensive end finishing with just 6 points.
For the Hawks, with Dwight Howard out, they decided to go small starting Schroder, Bazemore, Millsap, Sefolosha and Korver. This small lineup seemed to have the Thunder confused at first on both ends of the floor. The Thunder were unable to check Dennis Schroder (31-8-5), who was able to bait the Thunder into bad switches and score off penetration. On the offensive side, the Thunder seemed to be rushing, taking shots early in the shot clock and it didn’t seem like they were trying to capitalize on the Hawks size disadvantage.
Along with Schroder, Paul Millsap also had a great performance for Atlanta. Milsapp had his first 30 point performance of the season and was scoring at will both inside and outside, to go along with 11 rebounds. With the Hawks going small, he played at majority of the game at the 5 and the Thunder didn’t really have an answer for him.
Another problem for the Thunder, outside of the solid outings from Schroder and Millsap, was their inability to get anything going on the fast break. They are third in the league averaging 16.9 fastbreak points per game and only had 2 tonight. In their last meeting against the Hawks, they only had 8. Pushing the tempo and creating points off the fastbreak is a key component to this Thunder offense, especially with the lack of shooting, and they were unable to capitalize on that tonight.
Despite some of the Thunder’s flaws in this game, at the midway point in the third quarter it felt like they were going to pull this one out. But, the Hawks finished on a 10-2 run with Westbrook on the bench and were able to gain momentum and keep it close throughout the 4th quarter.
To me, it looked like Westbrook got fouled on several of his attempts late, and a player of his caliber will normally get those calls, but he didn’t… and the Thunder fall to 16 – 12 on the season.
- Victor Oladipo missed his fourth straight game tonight, but apparently he won’t need surgery.
- Billy D went with A Mo in the starting lineup again tonight.
- The Hawks had been playing well in their last five games with a new starting lineup of Schroder, Hardaway Jr., Sefolosha, Millsap and Howard. But, with Dwight out, Coach Budenholzer had to make some changes and decided to go with the samll lineup mentioned above.
- The Thunder had 26 assists in their last meeting against the Hawks, they had just 13 tonight. A big part of this comes with Westbrook doing what he did scoring tonight. There was a lot of isolation and him creating his own shots. I understand why he needed to do this with the Thunder unable to score and shooting terribly in the first quarter, but I personally would’ve liked to have seen more ball movement. That being said, the Thunder have to hit open shots when they have them.
- Roberson started the game with a disgusting finger-roll air ball… it wasn’t pretty.
- Arvydas Sabonis turned 52 tonight and was in attendance. Here’s some of his highlights to cheer you up.
- His son was unable to get anything going with smaller players guarding him in the Hawks starting lineup. As he progresses, he has to be able to take advantage of these types of mismatches.
- The Hawks shot a solid 54.7% from the field tonight.
- Against the Hawks available roster, Kanter should’ve been able to dominate. Budenholzer was aware of this as he sent double teams at Kanter when he would get the ball down low. Kanter was able to still make an impact on the offensive boards, but only finished with 8 points.
- Speaking of rebounds, the Thunder won the rebounding battle 44 – 35 (15 offensive) in the loss.
- The Thunder defenders were getting their hands up in the passing lanes and deflecting a lot of balls in the first half. Sometimes they are a little lazy in this area, but were aggressive tonight.
- OKC was unable to capitalize on the Kanter/Adams lineup against Atlanta’s small ball.
- There was a technical difficulty at the scorer’s table in the third quarter that caused a pretty lengthy delay.
- Muscala had an own goal tonight.
- Kyle Singler started the fourth quarter and the first time he touched the ball… he traveled.
- No triple double for Westbrook tonight.
- This one was tough loss, I thought the Thunder had it after their slow start, but they let the Hawks back into it late and couldn’t pull it out in the end.
Next up: Away against the Pelicans on Wednesday at 6:30 CST.