Big 3, Defense Key Thunder Win
By Randy Renner
Kevin Durant scored his first triple-double of the season and teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka joined him in going over 20 points to pump the gas to the Thunder offense and lead the way to a 107-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
The defense also played a big role, shutting down Atlanta in the fourth quarter when the Hawks could muster just 26.3 percent shooting overall while making none of their seven 3-pointers.
It marked the second straight game where the Thunder took control and closed out a quality opponent. Tuesday night in Memphis there was no drama with the Thunder up by 35 points going into the fourth quarter. Thursday night OKC led by eight, 83-75, going into the final 12 minutes.
The Thunder had led by as many as 17 but Atlanta started the third quarter on a 12-2 run to get back in the game but they never took the lead in that quarter and you just had the feeling the Thunder would not let this one slip away.
Durant finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his first triple-double since 2014 and the seventh of his career. Westbrook added 23 points, 10 assists and three steals. It's the first time ever Durant and Westbrook have registered 20-point, 10-assist games on the same night.
At the start of the evening points didn't pile up for either Thunder superstar, but assists did. Durant had five helpers and Westbrook four in the first quarter.
"I just try to play the game and make it simple for myself," Durant said. "I knew last time they were expecting me to be aggressive and score every time I got the ball, so I tried to switch the game up."
'Last time' was November 30th in Atlanta when the Thunder blew a lead late and lost 106-100. Durant was determined not to let that happen this time so he and Westbrook made plays to get teammates involved.
"I think it's contagious when your top guys do that," Durant said. "Russell did a great job of setting the tone, and I was able to be aggressive and make some plays."
Serge Ibaka was the biggest beneficiary early scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first quarter. Steven Adams also took advantage of passes down low by hitting all three of his shots in the first 12 minutes for six points.
Ibaka finished the night with 23 points and 10 boards while Adams scored 11 and pulled down seven rebounds.
Overall the Thunder shot 48.8 percent and 52.9 percent (9-for-17) on threes. They outrebounded Atlanta by a wide margin52-34 and even handed out more assists (24-21). The game was about even in the paint with Atlanta outscoring OKC just 36-34 but the Thunder dominated in transition 18-7.
The Thunder got on their charter jet after the game for a flight to Salt Lake City, they'll play the Jazz on Friday night and then play Utah again Sunday night back home.
Oklahoma City has now won seven of the last nine games and five straight inside The Peake.