Hawks Lead Throughout, But Too Much Durant for Thunder in Oklahoma City
The Thunder (36-10) led 2-0 early and didn’t lead again until it was 109-107 late in the fourth quarter prior to the eventual 111-109 final — the Hawks’ (23-21) fifth two-point road loss of the season.
|Hawks vs. Thunder|
In the middle, the Hawks played one of their best games of the season and led by as many as 14 in the second half. The Hawks were raining in three-pointers — 12-of-25 from three and 7-of-9 at one point — and then got the big men going as reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 23 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Kyle Korver extended his three-point streak to 113 consecutive games early in the first quarter and finished with 14 points, four assists, and three rebounds. Shelvin Mack made three three-pointers and had 15 points and a team-high seven assists. Mike Scott came off the bench for 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.
By the end of the game, seven Hawks had scored in double-figures — Millsap, Korver, Mack, Scott, Lou Williams, Dennis Schröder and DeMarre Carroll. Atlanta had 25 assists on 43 made shots while shooting 48.9% from the field and were 11-of-12 from the free throw line. They dominated the paint with a 56-38 advantage in points in the paint, but alas, despite all of the great performances, Kevin Durant showed up for the Thunder.
Durant finished the game with 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting — 5-of-7 from three-point range — along with five assists, four rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Durant had his 11th consecutive — yes consecutive — game with 30+ points. In the fourth quarter, Durant had 13 points and three assists — including the Thunder’s final seven points — despite the Hawks best efforts on defense, led by an admirable performance from Carroll.
The Hawks hounded Durant, but, as evidenced on the final possession, it didn’t matter how many defenders went at Durant down the stretch, he would just calmly rise over them all and sink jumper after jumper.
Each team showed their best down the stretch, with the Thunder taking a 109-107 lead with 25 seconds to play on a Durant 16-foot step-back jumper. The Hawks answered with a terrific inbound play that brought all the Thunder defenders above the free throw line, allowing Millsap to drive to the lane against Thabo Sefoloshia for the tying lay-in.
On the Thunder’s final possession, Reggie Jackson dribbled the clock down before getting it to Durant at the top of the key. Durant drove right, with Scott coming to help from his left, and as he pulled up from 12-feet — over Carroll and the closing help defenders Scott and Korver — he released a pure jumper that hit nothing but net with 1.5 seconds to play. The Hawks last effort, a lob play off the inbound to Millsap in the middle of the lane, could never be brought in by Paul and the clock expired.
Jackson and Derek Fisher each hit big three-pointers late in the fourth quarter to cut into the Hawks lead before Durant took over. Jackson finished with 18 points, and Jeremy Lamb added 14 points off the bench, but Durant was the story of the game — as he has been the story of the NBA for the past two-plus weeks. The short-handed Hawks gave the Thunder and Durant their best efforts, playing a gritty game throughout. However, Durant finished things as he has all season to give the Thunder an eight game winning streak.
The Hawks will have to shake off the loss and head home for a match-up with the Pistons on Wednesday.
Tweet of the Night
@ATLHawks tough loss. Played so well! So much heart and high basketball iq on this team
— Joseph Karam (@JMKaram) January 28, 2014
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images