The Thunder are not particularly good against sub-.500 teams, and you can’t get much sub-er than the Atlanta Hawks, who arrived here with a 7-24 record and without Dennis Schröder, their leading scorer. First quarter ended in a 28-28 tie. OKC dominated the second, 36-22; the Hawks repaid the favor in the third, 31-18. And things see-sawed in the fourth; Thunder runs were followed by Hawks runs, and the boys in blue didn’t start to look like they had things under control until a Steven Adams stickback put OKC up four. Then Adams went down and Ersan Ilyasova tossed up a trey. Nearing a shot-clock violation, Paul George put up a near-miss and was bailed out by Kent Bazemore; PG got one of two free throws for a two-point lead. Ilyasova found his way to the stripe and tied it at 117 with 12 seconds left. Then Russell Westbrook came up with a 27-foot three-pointer that, had he missed, would have gotten all manner of Anglo-Saxonisms aired in post-game interviews. Oklahoma City 120, Atlanta 117, and that last quarter, 38-36 Thunder, was something to behold.
In the absence of Schröder, it was Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli who did most of the damage, with Marco going 10-18 for 27 points and Ersan 7-10 for 22. What’s more, Malcolm Delaney came up with 20 from off the bench. Meanwhile, Westbrook served up 15 assists while wrangling 30 points, Melo made seven treys (!) for 24 points, George 17, and Adams 16. Andre Roberson picked up eight, missing two foul shots and prompting the Hawks to try Hack-A-Dre. Dre, always cooperative, missed the next two as well.
And tomorrow it’s Jazz Night for the last time this season. OKC leads the season series 2-1 over Utah, but the Jazz are 12-5 at home, and they have the night off tonight, which the Thunder obviously didn’t. The Rockets come to OKC on Christmas Day, but Houston is, um, 12-1 on the road. Expect ferocity.