There’s a lot to like in a titanic defensive struggle that goes right down to the wire.
The Hawks-Thunder rematch proved to be exactly that: tied after the first quarter, tied at halftime, and tied again halfway through the fourth on a Mike Bibby trey. Then the hammer came down, and the Thunder outscored the Hawks 17-10 in the last 5:50 to post a 106-99 win, sweeping Atlanta 2-0 and moving to six games over .500.
Then again, Joe Johnson outscored everyone: seemingly everywhere at once, he rolled up 37 points. Three other Hawks recorded double digits. (Bibby finished with 12.) And the Hawks shot a creditable 48 percent, 2.3 better than the Thunder.
But OKC got the boards, 45-35 (17 off the offensive glass), and Kevin Durant, en route to 33 points, collected 11 rebounds and sank 14 free throws in a row. During those last six minutes, Russell Westbrook was serving up assists left and right; he finished with nine of them, nine boards, and 12 points. Jeff Green was good for 19. But this is the startling figure: only seven turnovers. There have been nights when [fill in name of player] got that many all by himself.
So ends the four-game homestand, with a creditable 3-1. Tomorrow night, a visit to New Orleans, albeit without Chris Paul, then off to Golden State (Saturday) and Portland (Tuesday).