At one point in the second quarter, the Thunder had a 17-point lead over the Hawks, despite the Hawks shooting well over 50 percent. By halftime, that lead had been whittled to 11; in the third quarter, Atlanta pulled to within one more than once, largely powered by reserve swingman Kent Bazemore, who made his first seven shots. But Bazemore eventually cooled off, and at the 1:40 mark Mike Budenholzer pulled his starters. The final was 107-94, surely adequate revenge for OKC’s loss at Atlanta a few days back. And I have to figure that Bazemore wouldn’t have gotten all those shots if the Thunder hadn’t done a good job of bottling up Al Horford and Paul Millsap. (Horford, in fact, didn’t score at all until the second half, and the duo, normally good for 30 points or so between them, were held to 16.)
The Big News, though, was Kevin Durant, who bagged his 1,000th career 3-pointer early on, and logged his first triple-double of the season (25-12-10). Both Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook picked up double-doubles with 23 points each. (All three of these guys outscored Bazemore, who led the Hawks with 22.) OKC had no real answer for guard Jeff Teague, who scored 18, often untouched. Still, Atlanta wound up below 45 percent shooting, and did not look good from the stripe, missing nine of 23 free throws. And if the Thunder has finally learned to close out games, well, it’s not a moment too soon.
The scheduling weirdness continues: tomorrow night in Salt Lake City against the Jazz, then home Sunday against, um, the Jazz. And Rudy Gobert, Utah’s shot-blocker extraordinaire, has a bad sprain of the MCL in his left knee — it happened last week in practice, yet — and is not expected to play either of those games. Still, beating the Jazz in their house isn’t the easiest task in the world.