The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Atlanta Hawks at home, 124-109. A game after shutting down the Cavaliers, OKC followed a similar blueprint tonight. After getting off to a slow (and sloppy) start, the Thunder used a huge 2nd quarter run, outscoring Atlanta 38-20, to build a 20 point halftime lead enabling them to glide to victory.
The Thunder were once again led by Russell Westbrook, who followed up a huge bounce-back game against the Cavs with a near-triple double tonight, finishing with 23 on 8-15 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. His backcourt mate Alex Abrines, who suffered through a horrid shooting night against Cleveland, had a bounce-back game of his own. A game removed from shooting 1-8 from three, Abrines had his best shooting night as a pro, finishing with 21 on 7-11 shooting from 3-point range.
♂️ALEX ABRINES SHRUG ♂️ pic.twitter.com/uv8xBzVXOb— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 1, 2018
Tonight’s win was much the same as against Cleveland — OKC started poorly despite clear advantages all around, locked in on defense, and rode that stretch to an impressive win. OKC held the struggling Hawks to 38% shooting in the 2nd and forced them into 5 turnovers, which led to a 20 point halftime cushion.
The Hawks were able to keep things semi-interesting in the 2nd half behind the surprising sharpshooting of big man Alex Len (19 points, 3-6 from three), but in the end the Thunder were able to keep them at arm’s length, pushing the lead back to over 20 in the 4th. Rookie Trae Young, returning to Oklahoma for the first time since he played for the Sooners, was the recipient of the Russell Westbrook welcome to the NBA experience, and finished with 9 points on 4-15 shooting.
The win propels the Thunder to 14-7 on the season and sets them up for a key matchup in Detroit against a Pistons team finally figuring some things out.
- The Thunder’s slow starts aren’t terrible against lottery teams, but when OKC travels to Detroit, they could find themselves in trouble. More than anything else, they look like they’re trying to play too fast, and it leads to rushed passes, missed open looks, and turnovers. They seem to settle down by the middle quarters, but with the slow shooting starts, they are susceptible to better-shooting teams. Like, say, the Nuggets and Kings.
- Dennis Schroder, facing his old team for the first time in the regular season, played a solid game with 18 points on 8-15 shooting with 8 assists. Perhaps most impressive, he did a great job getting Nerlens Noel involved. While Noel has done a good job in a quiet fashion, tonight he finished well at the rim, scoring 14 points with 7 boards.
- We have a Patrick Patterson sighting! 2Pat finally found the range, finishing 3-8 from 3-point land after a brutal stretch where nothing seemed to want to drop. Patterson’s struggles have been limited by Donovan, who cut his minutes back accordingly, but hopefully this game will turn things around.
- OKC shot 18-41 from 3-point range. That is...a high number of shot attempts. Making 44% of them is nice, but it leads us to an interesting dilemma. OKC’s offense is proving to be really, really good at generating open looks around the arc (to be sure, the defenses are collapsing on the middle instead of pressing on the perimeter). Problem is, OKC is still looking to build the kind of consistency that makes it pay off. Seeing Abrines find his shooting touch again certainly helps.
- Jerami Grant had a quiet box score, but he continues to add elements to his game that are making the Thunder more dynamic, and he’s not eating up possessions to do it. Like this pass.
The pass by Jerami, though... pic.twitter.com/S3dRx7QcGy— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) December 1, 2018