Atlanta Next On Thunder Revenge Tour
By Randy Renner
On Tuesday the Thunder had a chance to get back at the Memphis Grizzlies tonight the Atlanta Hawks come to town. Both those teams beat the Thunder last month. Tuesday night the Thunder blistered the Grizzlies, they'd settle for merely beating the Hawks tonight.
Atlanta is coming in on the second night of a road back-to-back after handing the Dallas Mavericks a 98-95 loss in Big D. The Thunder were able to practice at home Wednesday after returning from Memphis.
It was just 10 days ago the Hawks beat OKC 106-100 in Atlanta and head coach Billy Donovan told reporters yesterday that game still being fresh in the minds of his team could help.
"Certainly there's some familiarity," Donovan said. "Just like with Memphis having also played them not too long ago and with one day between games it's something probably for us that we at least have something to go off of in a short period of time and the film from when we played against them."
The Thunder are coming off perhaps their best all-around game of the season Tuesday night at Memphis. They were outstanding at both ends of the floor in that 125-88 blowout win. The Thunder had shot just 41.5 percent over their previous three games but finished at a season-high 56 percent shooting against Memphis. They went 13-for-26 on shots from downtown after making just 29.6 percent of their threes in the previous four games.
Even though they've been up and down lately they've still managed to win six of their last eight games.
Atlanta has held opponents under 40 percent shooting in its last three victories. The Mavericks shot 36 percent from the field, a season low for a Hawks opponent.
"Our contests and our effort to get to their shooters was good," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I didn't think anybody got into a rhythm. So, a couple times when they were open, maybe they didn't feel good and maybe didn't have as much confidence."
Paul Millsap had 20 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Al Horford chipped in 14 points and eight boards. Tiago Splitter, who missed the previous seven games with a sore hip, had four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.
Millsap has averaged 22.6 points in five meetings with Oklahoma City since joining the Hawks.
"Millsap's one of those guys when you watch him play he's that "4" man who's really skilled, who can play in the pocket, can put it on the floor, he can create for others and he gets guys shots," raved Donovan.
But the Hawks are far from a one-man band. They may not have that elite superstar but they have a roster full of high quality players, All-Star caliber players, who can do a lot of different things well.
"If you just go and try to take Millsap out or Kyle Korver out, the way they play, somebody else is gonna step up," Donovan warned.
That somebody could be Horford, whom Donovan coach at Florida or point guard Jeff Teague, who burned the Thunder in Atlanta last week by scoring six of his 25 points coming down the stretch in critical situations.
Russell Westbrook had an even better fourth quarter scoring half his game-high 34 points in the final 12 minutes and putting his team ahead by four late only to have Teague rally the Hawks to the win.
"We've gotta play together, collectively defensively because it's not just about taking one guy out because you can give all your attention to one or two guys but with the way they play and pass the basketball somebody else is gonna hurt you."
THUNDER LIGHTNING BOLTS
- In seven games since returning from his hamstring strain Durant is averaging 27.6 points on 56.3 percent shooting overall and 46.7 percent (21-for-45) on threes.
- After his 19-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist night Sunday against the Kings, Westbrook is now third among active players with 22 career triple-doubles.
- The Thunder are 2nd in the NBA in scoring after 21 games averaging 108.5 points per game, 2nd in rebounding (48.1), 2nd in blocked shots (6.81) and 3rd in field goal percentage (46.9)
- Tonight's game will also be a homecoming of sorts for former Thunder shooting guard and defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha. He's started about half the Hawks games so far and will likely start tonight. Sefolosha is averaging 7.6 points on 52.3 percent shooting this season. Just like in Atlanta last week Sefolosha will be tasked with guarding Kevin Durant.
You can see tonight's game on Fox Sports Oklahoma, tipoff is set for 7:10. We'll have live updates from Thunder shootaround this morning and from The Peake this afternoon and evening on our Twitter feed page.