You might have thought the Atlanta Hawks, missing Joe Johnson for the week and Al Horford for the season, might have had some trouble tonight. You would have been wrong. For most of those 48 minutes, the Birds simply out-hustled the Thunder, and while OKC did manage to tie early in the fourth quarter, Atlanta ran off eight consecutive points and never trailed again, posting a 97-90 win.
“Three-point happy,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and he wasn’t kidding: the Thunder tossed up twenty-three from downtown, and only six actually dropped in. What’s more, they turned the ball over 21 times, resulting in 22 points for the Hawks, and if someone tonight was supposed to be clutch, well, the disc was slipping or something. Russell Westbrook, for the most part, did not look like someone who’d suffered a sprain two days ago, and he did rack up 25 points, but he didn’t snag so much as a single rebound. Kendrick Perkins showed some ferocity, enough to get himself six fouls in barely 15 minutes; this opened some time for Cole Aldrich, who pulled down seven boards, five offensive. And, yes, Kevin Durant scored his usual
But nobody seemed quite as motivated as Atlanta’s Josh Smith, who was playing as though he was assuming personal responsibility for blowing the Thunder off the court. And here’s your telltale statistic: Smith had 30 points, 12 rebounds yet still wound up -2 for the night. This tells me that the other Hawks were feeding off Smith’s energy, and even the occasionally tough Thunder defense, which blocked ten shots, would not be getting them down. Four of five Atlanta starters got double figures, and Zaza Pachulia had a double-double (10 points, 14 rebounds). Off the bench, Jerry Stackhouse didn’t score, but he served up five dimes, more than any Thunder player. And both Jannero Pargo and Vladimir Radmanovic came up with timely treys.
So the road trip ends on a sour note, and there’ll be no coffee on the flight home. Not that anyone has time to think about that, with the Mavs coming to town on Monday.