It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to show that he was feeling good against the Hawks Friday. He dropped his first shot — a smooth standstill jumper over Marvin Williams — hit back-to-back 3s and by the end of the third, had 25 points on 10-15 shooting.
But that’s when he turned things over to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook scored nine of his 28 in the final frame, leading the Thunder to a nice road win over the Hawks, 111-104.
The Thunder held a good six to 10-point lead for the majority of the second half, but the Hawks whittled it down to two, 102-100, with a little over a minute remaining. OKC needed a basket badly and in a very Westbrook-like manner, Russ didn’t even think as he caught a pass on the wing and fired from deep. He swished the 3, basically icing the win for the Thunder. That’s the thing about Westbrook — he didn’t think about it. And that’s why you trust him in those situations.
There was a certain level of anxiety post-trade for Thunder fans as OKC started out 0-2 in the wake of the emotional trade. But these past two outings have certainly showed the Thunder are just fine. They’re back to scoring the ball well and are playing pretty solid defense to go with it. A large part of that again — on both ends — has been James Harden who sparked a big second quarter for OKC scoring 13 in the period.
I honestly don’t think the Thunder’s doing a whole lot differently, but they are definitely picking up a little bit of comfort in their new skin. They’re understanding who fits where and you can just tell how much stronger they are inside. Nazr Mohammed and Serge Ibaka didn’t do anything incredible tonight — 14 points, 11 rebounds between them — but they sealed off the inside and held Al Horford to just 15 points. A big part of that was Nick Collison’s outstanding effort off the bench, but as a whole, I think it’s becoming more and more clear that the Thunder’s just better right now.
And this is even before the linchpin of the trade plays!
This was a game where it really felt like the Thunder was the superior team throughout. The Hawks have enough offensive talent in Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Horford to always stay tight, but without Josh Smith, OKC kind of seemed dominant. I don’t think it was the case, but really, other than the Hawks getting it to two with a minute left, I never felt much worry about the outcome.
- Kind of an odd game in the sense that there were barely any free throws through. Halfway through the fourth, OKC had taken only seven. That picked up as the game got more physical late as OKC finished 20-21 from the line and Atlanta 20-25, but for a large portion of the game, there just weren’t any free points.
- You can’t understate how awesome KD was in this game. He dropped 29 on 10-18 shooting, plus grabbed eight rebounds in 39 huge minutes. And this was just two days after horribly rolling his ankle. That’s big-time stuff right there.
- Harden is replacing Jeff Green’s scoring, but doing it more efficiently, in fewer minutes and from a proper position. Harden is a bit like Green in that he seems to score in spurts but fit in with the rest of the offense at other times. Like tonight, Harden scored 13 in the second quarter but finished with 17 for the game. That’s exactly what the Thunder needs though.
- It really sounded like a lot of Thunder fans were in the building. That may be because there weren’t a lot of Hawks fans there though.
- OKC is now 16-6 against the East.
- It really looks to me like Thabo is getting his defensive chops back. He defended Joe Johnson extremely well, forcing Johnson into an 11-24 shooting night (0-5 from 3) and just looked like his old self.
- I was a little worried about Westbrook’s safety since the Hawks probably hadn’t forgotten about his late triple-double in the last meeting. But nothing happened.
- Big stat: OKC 10 turnovers, Atlanta 16. Westbrook only had two, one coming on a charge.
- Westbrook was hit with another technical, this time for yelling “And 1!!!!” Westbrook’s face was total shock after he was whistled, saying to the ref, “I can’t scream ‘And 1?’” Evidently not. Though Russ did yell it with a bit of extra emphasis, I will say.
- Hey, did you know Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison knew each other previously to this game? If you watched tonight’s broadcast, you definitely would’ve heard that 15 or 16 times.
- Harden took 16 shots tonight. That’s what I’m talking about!
- Brian Davis line of the night: “They give it to [Etan] Thomas who’s got the hot hand.”
Next up: The Suns at home Sunday.