Thunder Stumble In Atlanta
By Randy Renner
Just a day after Thunder head coach Billy Donovan tapped the brakes on talk that his team had finally solved the problems they'd had with inconsistency those problems reared up again.
"I'm always reluctant to say you ever have anything figured out," he warned after Sunday's practice.
And sure enough Monday night in Atlanta the Thunder looked clueless at times and listless at times and also dominating at times which makes a loss like last night's 106-100 defeat so hard to take.
“We just put ourselves in a bad position,” said point guard Russell Westbrook who led the Thunder with 34 points and 11 rebounds. “When we were really locked in and ready to play, we had a chance to win the game. We just put ourselves in a little hole and had to fight back.”
Other than the first bucket of the game the Thunder trailed, often by a lot, in the first half until an 18-3 run brought them back to life going into the lockerroom at halftime down by just one 53-52.
The Hawks then used a 9-0 spurt to open the second half and stretch the lead out again. Atlanta led by 16 points in the fourth quarter only to see the Thunder claw back again and take a lead for the first time since 2-0.
Westbrook led the comeback with 17 fourth quarter points and the Thunder played mostly great defense to get back in the game but once the Thunder went back in front they collapsed on both ends of the floor, missing four of their last five shots and allowing the Hawks to score critical baskets.
“Russell carried us offensively in that fourth quarter,” Donovan said. “We just couldn’t make some shots and finish some plays that we needed to.”
“I was just trying to keep us in the game and taking the opportunities they gave me and trying to find a way to win,” Westbrook said of his dynamic fourth quarter.
Ultimately inconsistent play at both ends doomed the Thunder, a problem Donovan has been trying to fix all season.
“We did some good things but I think there are some plays we would have liked to have gotten back,” Donovan explained. “We certainly dug ourselves a hole and showed some resiliency and some fight to get ourselves back into the game.”
Despite outstanding defense from former teammate Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant had another efficient night scoring 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting overall and 2-for-4 from deep. He also grabbed six rebounds, handed out six assists and blocked four shots.
Serge Ibaka was solid also with 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting and four blocks.
Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter, who've been leading the Thunder bench, all had off nights. Waiters was 0-for-7 scoring one point at the foul line, Morrow was 3-for-12 but at least all three makes were 3-pointers and Kanter was 3-for-7 but he did pull down 10 rebounds.
The Thunder have a couple of days to work on things during road practice sessions. Their next game is Thursday night in Miami.