The Oklahoma City Thunder came into tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks on a second night of a back-to-back, needing to find energy and focus. The Thunder outscored the Hawks 65-41 in the second half and pulled out a 119-107 victory on Tuesday night. It was also another career milestone for Russell Westbrook, as he notched his 100th career triple-double.
Steven Adams missed tonight’s game after suffering a left ankle injury in last night’s game against the Kings. Dakari Johnson would fill in and make the start at Center for the Thunder.
The Thunder opened the game aggressively, looking to gets stops and attack in transition, Paul George opened the game with Thunder’s eight points. George’s aggressive start helped the Thunder get out to an early 20-13 lead.
The Hawks started to play more physical with Thunder, realizing that they were thin inside without Adams. John Collins started to roam free in the paint and threw down multiple dunks. The Thunder offense started to show signs of fatigue, missing layups, free throws, and wide-open threes. The Hawks closed out the quarter on a 9-2 run and trailed 31-28 after the first quarter.
Atlanta continued to build momentum as the 2nd quarter began, they inched into the Thunder lead and eventually took the lead. The Hawks beat up the Thunder inside and got layups and free throws. Taurean Prince started to heat up and he scored eight points as the half winded down.
Offensively, The Thunder could not get anything going, George started to slow down, Carmelo Anthony could not find his stroke, and Westbrook was the only consistent offense in the first half. The Hawks took a 66-54 lead into halftime at a time in this season where any bad loss could be catastrophic to the team’s playoff hopes.
The Thunder opened the second half going small with Jerami Grant in the lineup at Center. The lineup paid off for the Thunder, as they opened the half on a 11-3 run to pull within one possession. Melo found his stroke in the quarter, nailing four threes in the third quarter alone. Grant also made his presence felt, as he was the recipient of multiple Westbrook dimes.
The Thunder built a double-digit lead after a jumper from Corey Brewer, but they could not hold the Hawks off. The Hawks continued to fight back and finished the quarter on a 12-4 run. The Thunder led 90-88 after three.
Oklahoma City would have to finish the game without the services of George, who was injured in the third quarter and would not return.
The bench unit started the 4th quarter and they shared the ball until they found the best shot. Josh Huestis and Patrick Patterson both hit big treys after great ball movement from the Thunder. They also defended well and pulled the Thunder lead out to six at 101-95. The Hawks once again fought back and went on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 103 after a jumper from Prince. The Thunder ended the game with a Westbrook, Grant, Melo, Brewer and Felton lineup.
The score was knotted at 103, when the Thunder turned it up a notch on both ends. Westbrook was sensational in the clutch as he always is and he scored seven points and also dimed Grant for an and one. Then, Melo gave the final blow with a three that capped off a 16-0 run and put the game to rest.
The Thunder shot 47% from the field and made 16 threes out of 35 attempts on the night. They also beat the Hawks in blocks (12-5), steals (9-5), and assists (27-26). The Thunder also forced the Hawks to turn the ball over 15 times. They shot 19 of 25 from the free throw line.
Prince led the Hawks with 25 points and 8 rebounds. Dennis Schroder had 18 points and 8 assists. The Hawks also got double-digit contributions from bench players, Isiah Taylor with 12 and Damion Lee with 13.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. Melo scored 21 points (7-of-15 from the field, 6-of-11 from three). Grant put in 20 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. George chipped in 12 points before leaving the game with an injury.
The Thunder return to action on Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, as they start a stretch of games playing against teams with plus .500 records. The Thunder currently sit at 41-29 (4th in the Western Conference) with 12 remaining games. The Clippers currently have a 36-29 record and sit at 7th in the West.