TV: KSBI – Thunder TV (Cox 9)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
The Hawks 4-0 start isn’t as surprising as who they beat in those first four wins. Road victories in Orlando and New Orleans and a good win over Toronto show this Hawks team could be a good one. Statistically, they’re similar to the Jazz – good defensively (86 ppg allowed) and slightly above average offensively (97.8 ppg).
The Thunder played much better offensively in Utah – well, much better in the second half – possibly giving a bit of encouragement to OKC fans heading to the Thunderdome tonight that the ball may go through the hoop a little more.
Atlanta relies heavily on guard play with Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson (averaging 25.3 ppg), and will rely on it more than usual as the Hawks will be without gifted power forward Josh Smith. Smith sprained his ankle Friday against Toronto. Forward Marvin Williams and forward/center Al Horford will be picking up the slack for the injured Smith.
In order to win… the Thunder needs to sustain for four quarters. Sustain rebounding, intensity, defense, but most importantly, shooting. It’s quite a quandary how a team can come out of the blocks so hot like it did against Boston and Utah, but then cool off so quickly. Those two games were like taking a lava-hot Hot Pocket and dropping it into liquid nitrogen. Why it happens, no one knows.
One thing to watch tonight is Kevin Durant. Not for the obvious reason, but because 1) He hasn’t shot the ball that well at home and 2) If he’s scoring, to see how he handles it. He was shooting and scoring well in Utah but he wasn’t shooting that much and wasn’t playing a ton either. If he can get going, it will be interesting to see how he handles the rest of the game.
Prediction: One thing Oklahoma City gained in Utah Friday night besides a loss was momentum. The team played incredibly well down the stretch and hopefully proved to itself that it can score and can play well. Jeff Green looked as good as ever and was 3-3 from downtown. As mentioned, Durant was scoring well. Russell Westbrook didn’t have much of an impact but that was because Earl Watson was playing better. Confidence and momentum are a great thing and if OKC can bring those home with them to the Ford Center tonight, the outcome could be favorable. Perimeter defense is key because of how much Bibby and Johnson prefer the outside shot and equally key is limiting second chances on missed long balls. Tonight, Green and Durant carry over the stellar performances and combine for a bevy of points leading the Thunder to their second win. Thunder 97, Hawks 95.