The Hawks shot 35.6% from the field in a 101-92 loss to the Thunder, snapping their three-game home winning streak. The Thunder improve to 16-4, winning 11 of their last 12, and move into the second spot in the Western Conference.
Atlanta had only two players that shot 50% or better from the field, Lou Williams and Shelvin Mack off the bench. The starters combined to go 19-for-63 (30.2%) from the field for the game. The game started competitive and was tied at 21 at the end of the first quarter, but it was a battle of offensive futility in the first half.
“We were missing easy shots,” Jeff Teague said. “We had a lot that rolled out. We got the shots we wanted, we just couldn’t make them tonight. You have nights like that, but we still played hard. They just had a better shooting night than us.”
Hawks vs. Thunder
Neither team was able to find their offensive rhythm in the first half, with the Hawks shooting 33.3% (15-of-45) and the Thunder shooting 41.5% (17-of-41). The two teams were a combined 4-for-24 (16.7%) from the three-point line in the first half. Oklahoma City took a nine-point lead into the half thanks to a 13-6 disparity in made free throw attempts and seven points off of eight Hawks turnovers.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap led the Hawks with seven points each in the first half, and Horford added 10 first half boards. Teague had just two points and did not have a made field goal in the first half.
Teague’s counterpart, Russell Westbrook, had an awful shooting half going 2-of-12 (0-for-3 from three) and missed a number of lay-ups and shots at the rim. The point guard match-up, which was supposed to be one of the best of the season at Philips, started off with a flop rather than a flurry.
Kevin Durant was a modest 4-for-9 from the field in the first half for 14 points and Serge Ibaka added eight first half points. The biggest boost for the Thunder, was the bench duo of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, who combined for 15 points for Scott Brooks’ reserve unit.
The third quarter was off to an inauspicious for the Hawks, as they fell behind by 15 points with three minutes to go, but the Hawks ended the quarter on an 11-4 run to get the Thunder lead down to eight heading to the fourth quarter. Teague and Millsap held the Hawks offense together, and Jeff had 13 points in the third quarter alone.
Jackson hit a pair of difficult, contested shots, one a runner as the shot clock expired, and another on a pull-up as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter. The Hawks played terrific defense on both possessions, but it was all for naught, which as Bud talked about after the game, was a tough pill to swallow.
“*drops head* Yeah, they were , and I thought our group actually responded coming out of the fourth quarter, and we talked about it. Those were two really, really difficult baskets. He made them. Give him credit, and move on. It would’ve been nice, I don’t have to say, it would’ve been nice if they didn’t go in.”
The Hawks put aside that frustration and continued their run to start the fourth quarter, and had the Thunder lead as low as 78-75 with 10:19 to play after a Lou Williams three-pointer. The Hawks took advantage of the Thunder bench during that run with Durant and Westbrook out, and Millsap had eight points in that five-minute stretch, all of which came from the free throw line.
Durant returned, with Westbrook checking in shortly after, and the Thunder went on a 10-0 run that seemed like it would doom the Hawks and took a 88-75 lead with 6:47 to play. Atlanta stayed resilient and cut into the Thunder lead with some big three-pointers down the stretch by Millsap and Mack.
Mack had eight of his career-high 17 points in just over a two-minute stretch when the Hawks cut the lead from 11 to three with two minutes to play. He was 7-of-9 from the field (3-of-5 from three) and had six assists to go along with his career-high 17 points. Bud pointed to Shelvin as one of the bright spots of the night.
“Shelvin just finds a way to help the team. Whether it’s scoring or passing or defending, he’s just a really nice compliment to our group. He does a lot of different things. He obviously had a good game and he came in and made some big baskets that closed the gap and gave us a chance there late.”
The Hawks could never finish the comeback, though, as the Thunder pushed the lead back out over the final two minutes to earn the comfortable nine-point victory.
Kevin Durant had 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, despite looking out of sync on the offensive end and being sloppy with the ball (five turnovers). DeMarre Carroll was very solid defensively against Durant, keeping him away from the basket for the most part, and forcing him into mostly contested jump-shots. Durant shot 9-for-21 from the field, but was still able to force his way to the free throw line 15 times, where he made 11 of his attempts.
For all the good Carroll did on the defensive end, he was overly-aggressive on the offensive end, particularly in the first half. Carroll finished the game 2-for-10 from the field, taking mostly jump shots, and was 1-of-4 from three-point range on his way to seven points and five rebounds.
Millsap finished the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds, but he was just 5-of-18 from the field (2-of-4 from the three-point line). Millsap tied his career high with 11 made free throws on 12 attempts, which was a massive improvement on his free throw percentage entering the game (59%).
After a strong first half, Horford did not record a single point or rebound in the second half, going 0-for-4 from the floor in 17 minutes. Horford was not able to get into the offensive flow, struggling to get the ball in the post against Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams, and he and Teague never got the pick-and-roll game working.
Russell Westbrook‘s struggles from the field carried over to the second half, but he was able to impact the game in other ways, finishing with a near triple-double with 14 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds. His lone three-pointer that he made in his six attempts was a big one that extended the Thunder lead to 11 with four minutes to play.
Serge Ibaka had a double-double of his own with 19 points and 10 boards, and was a force on the defensive end protecting the rim. The Lamb and Jackson bench duo combined for 24 points, six rebounds, and three assists on 10-of-19 shooting, to give the Thunder a much needed lift.
Coach Bud’s final takeaway from the game was one of mixed emotions. The team competed and played hard, especially on the defensive end, but the offense was lacking consistency and they were not executing the offense well.”
“Feel like we played hard. Competed. But we didn’t play real well, and I will take a competitive group, but I’d like them to play well also, too. I think we left a lot of points, especially in the first half, you know, layups and free throws and some really good opportunities where it could’ve been a closer game at halftime. We just, offensively, you have to first give them a lot of credit. Their defense was excellent tonight and our execution needs to improve. When the defense turns up the intensity we have to react better. Defensively, I think there are a lot of positives tonight. I think we made it difficult on Oklahoma City, who’s obviously a great team.”
The Hawks slip to 10-10 and will have to wait another two days before they get a chance to redeem themselves at home against the Wizards.
Tweet of the Night
— James Winfro (@JWinfro) December 11, 2013
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images