Something about New Year’s in Oklahoma City and fun basketball games. Or more specifically, winning basketball games.
The Thunder used some seriously hot shooting to take down the Hawks 103-94 behind 33 from Kevin Durant and a triple-double from Russell Westbrook. OKC went 10-18 from 3 – this being from one of the worst outside shooting teams in the league – while holding the typically solid Hawks to just 5-18 from the money line.
Three points to make about this game:
1) Serge Ibaka was terrific. I had a feeling that the Al Horford – Jeff Green matchup would be a tough situation for OKC so Scott Brooks went with Ibaka in the second half. Serge saw 31 minutes and registered 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks while holding Horford to just 14.
2) I thought the Thunder’s second half defense was seriously excellent. Specifically the fourth quarter. Everything the Hawks attempted seemed to be forced and contested. A good example of that was Joe Johnson going just 6-20 from the field. Without a big game from Jamal Crawford, OKC cruises to a bit easier win.
3) James Harden might have been the most valuable player in this game for OKC. I can’t stop talking about how confident he looks right now. He was just so… decisive. He never hesitated on an open 3 and even actually maybe forced a couple. Which honestly was nice to see. He scored 15 on 5-6 shooting and 3-4 from 3 with his only miss rimming in and out.
This is a really good win for the Thunder because OKC just clicked. The second half defense was great, the shooters shot well and the good players played really well. Easy to win to when those things happen.
- Definitely worth noting HOW Russell Westbrook got his triple-double. He was short an assist and with OKC up 101-92 with 20 seconds left, Ibaka broke wide open under the basket. He was open because the Hawks weren’t exactly trying. Westbrook, obviously understanding what he needed, dropped it to Ibaka for a dunk. The Hawks didn’t take kindly to it, running down the floor to score and then lingering after the game for a second. I don’t blame Russ at all. It’s professional basketball. What’s the big difference between a nine-point win and a seven-point one? It’s not like it was rubbing it in. At least not to me.
- Hawks coach Larry Drew said, “”You don’t do that. The game is over with. The game is over with. You’ve got the ball, you run the clock out. Just that plain and simple.” But Atlanta was still trying to score with the game over too. I don’t know, not something to get worked up about in my mind.
- However, Scott Brooks wasn’t a fan of the play and said he talked to Westbrook about it. “When you’ve got the game won, you run the clock out,” Brooks said.
- Jeff Green, not great. 10 points and only one rebound in 20 minutes. Again, tough matchup for him tonight and as a result, he was saddled with foul trouble early in the third quarter. However in those 20 minutes, he was a +13, which was a game high.
- KD was just so money. I keep telling you, he’s in his groove. He went 5-9 from 3 and every one he let go, I was convinced it was dropping. I feel like he’s going to average around 30-33 points a game for the rest of the season.
- Westbrook was clearly great, but he did into forcing things a bit while he tried to takeover at times. You can live with it because even when it’s bad, it’s kind of good, but he definitely worked really hard.
- OKC worked Atlanta on the glass 42-36, which was nice. Only five offensive rebounds for Atlanta.
- Josh Smith just looks so good when he dunks.
- Just 17 free throw attempts for the Thunder which is a little low. Made 15 though.
- I think a big key to OKC’s outside shooting was how there wasn’t much hesitation. It seemed like the players just got in a rhythm and felt good about every shot they took. I don’t want to say this is going to carry over because sometimes players get hot, but I’m hoping this is a turn-the-corner type of thing.
- Harden was again great offensively, but he played great defensively as well. He, along with Durant, were a big reason Joe Johnson went 6-20 from the floor. I continue to be super stoked about Harden right now.
Next up: A tough one at San Antonio Saturday night.