Channel D was evidently opened in the fourth quarter at Atlanta: in the first nine minutes both sides racked up a meager total of 20 points. Still, there’s a lot to like in a titanic defensive struggle that goes right down to the wire, especially if you’re on top at the end, which the Thunder were, 94-91, after Jamal Crawford failed to connect on a last-second trey.
Which is not to say that the Hawks lacked offensive prowess: they racked up 27 assists and 18 offensive rebounds. But the lid was on the cylinder: Atlanta shot 40 percent, and only four of sixteen treys dropped. Still, four starters plus sixth-man Crawford landed in double figures, led by Joe Johnson with 23. Both Josh Smith and Al Horford rolled up double-doubles.
The Thunder shot a little better: 44.7 percent, four for nine for distance, and 22 of 26 free throws. Jeff Green finished off a double-double (15 points, 11 boards) with a three-point play with 12.4 seconds left. Russell Westbrook scored eight, delivered nine dimes, and gave up only three turnovers. And that Durant fellow scored around his average, which is lately 29. Forty-eight rebounds for OKC, versus 44 for Atlanta.
Then again, the Thunder led through most of the game, by double digits at times, and still had to gut it out at the end. Which proves two things: the Hawks never lie down and die, and the Thunder still need to keep working on closing ’em out.
But if you’re starting a tough four-game road trip, this is the way to do it: with a win over a playoff-bound team. More like this, please.