This Feels Like Last Year, Westbrook Saves The Thunder From Atlanta
By: A. Suave Francisco
The (7-24) Atlanta Hawks featured Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli and Kent Bazemore in the absence of Dennis Schroder on Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was a game the Thunder were expected to win in dominant fashion. That's not exactly how things went, the Hawks kept it interesting but the Thunder edged things out, thanks to a last-second three from Russell Westbrook to lift his team to a 120-117 victory.
The story of the game isn't about how well Atlanta played but how much Oklahoma City once again played down to their competition. It's baffling to see the Thunder go from one of the best teams in the league to struggling to beat the worst, all on the same night.
Against Atlanta, the quandary was coaching. Billy Donovan's questionable rotations in the third quarter were the most obvious problem in this game and have been the problem for this team throughout the season. Atlanta outscored OKC in the third quarter 31-18 and coincidentally, that's when Donovan pulled the starters from the game, including Paul George who was finally getting into a rhythm.
With the second team in, everyone witnessed a double-digit lead dwindle down to single digits and eventually an Atlanta lead. It looked like the Thunder may let another game against an underachieving team get the best of them.
Of course, just like Oklahoma City does, it wasn't until Russell Westbrook checked back into the game early in the fourth quarter that the Thunder started coming back to life. By then, though, Atlanta had confidence. They made some big shots up to that point and they were confident. They believed they had a chance to win the game...and they did.
Although coaching was the biggest issue in this game, the fact that the Thunder shot 61.3 percent from the free-throw line certainly didn't help the cause. They left 12 points on the line and happened to get lucky and win the game by three.
If it weren't for Westbrook's last-second 27-foot prayer that happened to go in, the Thunder would've gone into overtime with the worst team in the NBA and who knows what would've happened from there.
Westbrook finished tonight's game with a game-high 30 points, 15 assists and 7 rebounds on an astounding 12-of-17 shooting. Carmelo found his shot early in the game and finished with 24 points. Steven Adams had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Paul George notched 17 points on an off shooting night, only after Donovan pulled him from the game.
The slogan all summer has been "a win is a win" and that's what we'll continue to say, but eventually, the Thunder will have to start beating these lackluster teams with authority on a consistent basis.
OKC improves to (17-15) on the season and will face the Utah Jazz Saturday night, on the road.