Your sportsball pundits will happily tell you that the Oklahoma City Thunder is the best third-quarter team in the entire NBA, which of course explains why the Hawks outscored them 30-25 tonight. It didn’t make a whole lot of difference: a 38-22 second quarter got OKC to a twenty-point lead (66-46) at halftime, and Atlanta, so far this season anyway, hasn’t been the sort of team that comes back from a twenty-point deficit. And so the Thunder won it by fifteen, 124-109, not so much thanks to Hawks futility, but from getting their own ducks properly queued.
Item: Alex Abrines has been shooting poorly of late, and Patrick Patterson was about 1.5 standard deviations worse than Abrines. Tonight, Señor Splash sank seven of 11 from outside for an easy 21 points, and the Patt Man, who hadn’t made a shot in a couple of weeks, bagged four of nine, including three treys, for 13.
Item: Patterson’s 13 points was third-highest from the Thunder bench, trailing both Dennis Schröder and Nerlens Noel.
Item: The Thunder tossed up 41 three-pointers; miraculously, 18 of them dropped, a season high.
Item: OKC took only 15 free throws, but made 14 of them. We’ve seen nights when they were lucky to get ten.
And oh, yes, Russell Westbrook almost had a triple-double: 23-9-10.
The Hawks did make reasonable noise. Their starting forwards, John Collins and Taurean Prince, delivered 19 and 15 points respectively; reserve big Alex Len had 19 more. But the situation that characterized Atlanta’s night best was this: veteran Vince Carter had exactly zero playinh time, but was rung up for a technical for a bit of trash-talking in Westbrook’s direction. (Westbrook returned the courtesy, and he, too, was hit with a T.)
This is about the time you want to tell the men in Thunder blue not to get cocky. It’s time to hit the road, and the road goes first to Detroit, where the Pistons have won four straight and are now in fourth place in the East, five ticks below the all-conquering Raptors. In the sort of scheduling that used to make travel agents rich, the next two games are at Brooklyn and Chicago. Maybe we can think of them as downhill.