Let that sink in Thunderheads. Taste it, savor it; delicious.
Thunder 94 Atlanta 91. Box Score.
The 23rd win is pretty cool in itself. Thunder fans have taken a lot of crap and had to live with a lot of humble pie for the last year and a half, but what makes it even more interesting is that today’s 23rd win came against one of the best teams in the East with a 16-4 home record, and it came in game number 41; the dead center middle of the season. How cool is that?
It was a game of runs, bricks, big shots, highlight reel plays and “oh my gawd” moments. So basically it was one you couldn’t sleep through, especially in the fourth quarter. For much of the fourth it looked like a scrum under and above the basket. Neither team was shooting well and all ten guys were in there ripping and snarling for rebounds and putbacks.
Case in point: after shooting 51% through the first three quarters the Thunder managed only 6/21 in the final frame (28.5%) en route to 15 points. Atlanta was 6/22. As a result the Thunder gobbled up 17 rebounds in the fourth and the Hawks snared 13. Loose balls, bodies flying and arms flailing.
But the game got tight at the end when the Hawks pulled even on two Josh Smith free throws at 88 apiece with just two minutes and a bit left after trailing since the first quarter. Then finally, with the Thunder up by two with 19 seconds left, one of those “most amazing plays of the season” happened.
Durant was inbounding from the sideline and the defense was especially tight. Green came to meet Durant and receive the pass just a few steps inside the half court line with Josh Smith on his hip. Green secured the pass, hesitated for a second to freeze Smith, and then just took off at a dead sprint for the hoop. Smith was with him the whole way and nobody from the Hawks gave help. Green just elevated and completely extended with his right hand as he was falling out of bounds and dunked it hard as he was fouled and ended up plowing into the padding around the hoop support. AND1.!
It was just amazing. Two of the most athletic, young combo forwards in the league going mano-a-mano. Dominique Wilkins who was doing the color for Atlanta said ” he finished that the way a big man is supposed to…with authority”.
But that wasn’t even the end of it. Up by five they left Bibby open in the corner for a three. Then up by just two Durant, who was 14-14 from the line missed the second of two free throws, which left us with a three point advantage instead of four points.
The final play was almost a carbon copy of Atlanta’s final play the other night against the Suns where Jamaal Crawford hit a very very deep three over Jared Dudley at the buzzer for the win. Crawford got that same shot over Jeff Green today, and it looked good enough to make my heart miss a beat, but in the end it just missed. Thunder win Baybee.
- I’m not the biggest Jeff Green supporter in Thunderland, but I have to admit this game isn’t a win without him. The big shot notwithstanding, his 11 rebounds were a huge key to victory. For the last three years I’ve been comparing Jeff Green, or what kind of player I think he could become, to Josh Smith. Tonight Green was every big as important to us as Smith was to Atlanta, and statistically he did more than enough to make the comparison.
- Collison was out with a knot on his head from the Miami game so Nads Krstic got more than his usual minutes and he turned in a very nice performance. His jumper was money, he had 7 boards (5 offensive) and an assist, and 16 points in 32 minutes.
- Ibaka was a rebound hound in the fourth quarter from both big positions in the frontcourt. He had 8 big boards in 9 fourth quarter minutes. He finished with 6 points and 10 boards in 24 minutes. Paycheck earned!
- I’m still trying to get my mind around the fact that Russell Westbrook only took 2 shots in the fourth quarter and only 9 for the game. Wow. He had 9 assists to 3 turns.
- Did you notice Bibby trying to guard Sefolosha in the post. Not going to happen. Sef has a post game and long arms. Crawford was immediately brought in whereby he posted Jamaal and kicked out to an open Durant for a three.
- Lord Byron Mullins Mullens got a little look tonight. Statistically he was a non factor other than getting called for a few fouls, but I like the way he moves his feet and defends the pick and roll. He did get touch in the post where the switch left him being guarded by the point guard Bibby. Mully made a quick spin move and hooked Bibby for the offensive foul.
- Speaking of Mullins Mullens, he was out there with Harden, Green, Maynor and Ibaka for a 4 rookie lineup for about 5 minutes or so. I like the fact that the team didn’t sink or even lose ground while KD and Westbrook and the starters could get some wind.
- I didn’t like the way Josh Smith got to the basket numerous times. He just has a knack for that.
- The Hawks went small in the first half with three shooting guards (Evans, Johnson and Crawford) Smith and Horford. Brooks didn’t take the bait and likewise go small, he stayed with the bigger lineup and eventually Atlanta relented.
- I thought the overall team defense was about on par. Not our finest effort but certainly pretty good, especially against the 3rd best offense in the association. We held them to 40% shooting (42.2 eFG%) and 107 offensive rating, both considerably below their season norms.
- It’s funny how just in his third season 29 points by Kevin Durant seems so ho-hum and anticlimactic. We are being daily spoiled by his basketball greatness.
It was an awesome team win; one of the giants of the season. Find that video of Jeff Green’s slam in the fourth and watch it if you haven’t seen it.