The Hawks are unbeatable. Or so it seems.
Atlanta won its 15th straight game on Friday night, defeating the Thunder 103-93 in front of a sold-out crowd at Philips Arena.
Common sense would dictate that the Hawks had to lose at some point, and early on in Friday's contest, it looked like the Thunder might be the team to do it. Oklahoma City used a 13-2 first-quarter run to seize a 19-14 lead. The Thunder's energy was excellent and the defense suffocating. Russell Westbrook's 3-pointer with 28 seconds left gave OKC a 30-23 lead after one.
But Atlanta never wavered. The Hawks ended the first half on an 18-8 run that was capped off by a rare Kyle Korver dunk in the closing seconds. Atlanta led 48-47 at the break and took over in the second half.
“I thought we came out very solid defensively in making them work for every shot,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks explained. “We had a lead, and we kinda got away from that in the last two or three minutes of the second quarter.”
The Thunder indeed got away from their focus, and never got it back.
OKC failed to bring the same energy level to the second half and the Hawks took advantage. Atlanta increased its lead to 66-58 lead with a 9-2 run midway through the third and pretty much cruised from there. The Hawks led by double digits for the final 6:48 of the game.
“In the fourth quarter they did a lot of things well,” Brooks said. “And we didn't have anything for it.”
Westbrook was the only Thunder player who brought their A game to the ATL. Westbrook poured in 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting and dished out 11 assists. Kevin Durant scored 21, but struggled on 8-of-22 shooting. KD also grabbed just three rebounds, a season-low for a game in which he didn't exit with an injury.
The Hawks' frontcourt of Al Horford and Paul Millsap gave Oklahoma City fits all evening. Horford finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three shots, while Millsap torched the Thunder for 22 points and 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague added 17 points and nine assists.
Oklahoma City did do a masterful job on the NBA's top 3-pointer shooter, Kyle Korver. Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow and Dion Waiters combined to hold the sharpshooter to just five shot attempts and only one made 3-ball.
The Hawks (36-8) won their 29th game in 31 tries. Oklahoma City (22-21) slips back into a tie for the No. 9 spot with the New Orleans Pelicans and will face the resurgent Cavs in Cleveland on Sunday.