Despite being tied 28-28 at the end of the first quarter, the Thunder didn’t wait long to get going on Friday night versus the Hawks. Oklahoma City outscored Atlanta 36-22 in the second quarter, building a commanding 14-point lead at the halftime break. On a night the Hawks were without point guard — and best player — Dennis Schröder, it felt like the beginning of the end.
Then right on cue, familiar third quarter issues came into play.
The Hawks outscored OKC 31-18 in the third, watching the Thunder miss seven free throws and commit seven turnovers in the quarter. Just like that, Atlanta had pulled within one point — and began sounding the “Here we go again” alarm for Thunder fans.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, as Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony dualed with Marco Bellinelli and Ersan Ilyasova down the stretch. After two Ilyasova free throws tied the game at 117-117 with just 11 seconds remaining, the reigning MVP called his own number for the final look.
The Thunder moves to 17-15 on the season and is two games above .500 for the first time this season. It was far from pretty and should have never ever been this close, but it’s a tally in the win column for a team that is eager to earn them.
Quick turnaround — back in action tomorrow night in Salt Lake City. Now for some notes on the win over Atlanta.
Russell Westbrook entered having shot 59 percent from the field over his last three games and continued his shooting streak against the Hawks. Russ finished with 30 points, 15 assists and 7 rebounds — shooting 12/17 from the floor and 1/2 from downtown. He was also 5/5 from the free throw line.
Westbrook again looked in control, not settling for poor shots and working hard to find his teammates in position to score. He turned the ball over just three times and stuck the feather in his cap with the game-winner. Don’t look now, but he might be back.
Melo Finds His Touch
Carmelo Anthony finished with 24 points on 8/19 shooting — going 7/12 from downtown. He routinely fired from deep on the catch and played a role similar to what most envisioned for him when he landed in Oklahoma City. He was just 1/5 from midrange — so things could and should have been even better — but it’s a step in the right direction all things considered.
Paul George Was Quiet. Paul George wrapped up the night with 17 points and 5 rebounds on 4/12 shooting. He hit 7/10 from the free throw line and finished with a team-high plus-11.
Free Throw Woes — Part 32. The Thunder continued the poor shooting from the charity stripe. OKC hit 19/31 (61.3 percent) and probably deserved to lose this one because of it.
The Random Guys. The Thunder has a history of getting torched by random guys and tonight was no different. Marco Bellinelli put 27 on the board, Ersan Ilyasova dropped 22 and Malcolm Delaney scored a career-high 20. The three men combined to shoot 13/21 from downtown and nearly beat the Thunder by themselves.
Huestis down the stretch. The Hawks turned to the Hack-a-Dre strategy late in the third quarter and it seemed to impact the way Billy Donovan used Andre Roberson down the stretch. Josh Huestis saw a decent amount of run in crunch time and finished with 25 minutes of action — just three less than Roberson. Dre was 0/4 from the line tonight so it will be interesting to see if this continues. Roberson shot 4/8 and took no shots outside of the paint. He needs to finish at the rim with more regularity but is making a difference moving without the basketball.
Where Are You Alex? Alex Abrines came in averaging just over 22 minutes per game in December but saw four minutes of action tonight versus Atlanta. He recorded one assist.
- Steven Adams finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Raymond Felton chipped in 10 points.
- The Thunder shot 13/25 from dowtown (52 percent)
- OKC won 40-27 on the boards
- The Hawks had 28 assists to OKC’s 24
- The Thunder turned the ball over 19 times
- Atlanta won 48-42 in the paint
Westbrook discusses the game-winner. Via FSOK.
Carmelo Anthony on accepting his role. Via Royce Young.