Thunder overcomes deficit, defeats Hawks, 123-115

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Thunder point guard D.J. Augustin passes the ball under the outstretched leg of Atlanta's Dennis Schroder Friday night.
Russell Westbrook shoots over Atlanta defender Kent Bazemore during the Thunder's 123-115 win. Westbrook had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists for his ninth triple-double of the season.
Dion Waiters attempts to score on layup while being guarded by Paul Millsap. Waiters finished with 26 points.
Anthony Morrow dribbles past Hawk defender Shelvin Mack during Friday's matchup.
Thunder center Steven Adams tries to block a shot by Atlanta's Al Horford.
Russell Westbrook blows past two defenders for two of his game-high 36 points.

By Tim Farley

It took a total team effort, including a more-than-usual boisterous crowd, for Oklahoma City to rally from a 12-point deficit and defeat the Atlanta Hawks 123-115 Friday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Five Thunder players scored in double figures, including league MVP candidate Russell Westbrook who notched his ninth triple-double of the season with 36 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. Dion Waiters had his best overall game with 26 points, hitting 11 of 18 shots, and three-point ace Anthony Morrow struck from deep six of 10 times to finish with 21 points.

“I thought this game was won in a few different areas. One was our crowd. Our crowd was just incredible. It gave all of our guys an extra bit of energy, which we needed,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “And then the defense in the last part of the third quarter and throughout the fourth quarter. We finally got some stops (that) we needed and we made some adjustments. Everybody came in and chipped in. Dion was terrific on both ends and I thought Russell did a great job of finding A-Mo (Anthony Morrow) on a lot of wide open threes, and then Nick (Collison) had one of his better games.”

Earlier in the day, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti announced Kevin Durant would be sidelined indefinitely with a sore foot that has plagued him since a second surgery in February. But last year’s MVP wasn’t the only player out of uniform. Serge Ibaka is recovering from surgery on his right knee and center Enes Kanter was held out with an ankle injury suffered in the fourth quarter against Boston Wednesday night.

Despite a season filled with injuries to stars and role players, the Thunder showed an intense will to battle back Friday night.

“Our guys are going to continue to fight and rally and our crowd is going to continue to support our guys because they give effort. It’s not healthy for the head coach to go through all these injuries,” Brooks said. “In the last 20 games, with one dud against the Clippers, we’ve either won or it’s gone down to the wire in the last two minutes.”

Neither team played efficient defense in the first half as Atlanta jumped out to a 68-61 lead at intermission. Atlanta hit nine of 19 three-point shots in the first half, but cooled off in the second half connecting on four of 11.

The Hawks (53-16) led by a dozen points twice in the third quarter before the Thunder began its rally at the 7:05 mark when Adams connected on a five-foot hook shot and a dunk and Collison a 23-foot trey to cut the lead to 81-76. Atlanta stopped the rally, but only briefly with Collison, Waiters and Westbrook accounting for Oklahoma City’s final seven points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to 95-90.

The Thunder’s defense clamped down on the Hawks and Morrow went on a three-point fest hitting two treys in a row, cutting the Atlanta lead to 103-102. Moments later, Westbrook and Morrow combined for two straight treys to give Oklahoma City a 108-105 lead with 5:52 left to play. From that point, the Thunder outscored the Hawks 15-10 to capture its second win in a row and fourth in the last five games.

“They made a lot of shots and Morrow, that’s what he does,” Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s a great shooter and Westbrook will put you in a lot of tough spots. I think they made just a couple more plays than us down the stretch.”

Although it was a big win for the embattled Thunder, Brooks said Oklahoma City could ill afford to enjoy the victory too long.

“We have to do it every night,” he said. “We’ll rest when you need to rest which is what we’ll do tomorrow, but we’ll need the same emotion on Sunday. We’ll need that same great energy, defending, blocking shots and shooting. The game’s over when we walk out Chesapeake Arena tonight and then we have to figure out a way to beat the Miami Heat on Sunday.”

Oklahoma City maintained its hold on the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference and now lead ninth-place New Orleans by 1 ½ games.

The Thunder, the top rebounding team in the league, grabbed more boards than the Hawks, 44-34. Center Steven Adams had 16 rebounds while scoring a dozen points. Nick Collison was also in double figures with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.

After trailing by seven at halftime, the Thunder outscored Atlanta 29-27 in the third quarter, then shifted into high gear, outscoring the Hawks 33-20 in the final 12 minutes.

Oklahoma City hosts Miami in a 2 p.m. game Sunday before the Los Angeles Lakers come to town on Tuesday.

GAME NOTES: Oklahoma City outscored Atlanta in the paint, 54-50, and tallied more second chance points, 15-10…The game was tied five times and there were seven lead changes…The Thunder shot 51 percent from the field while Atlanta shot 50 percent…Both teams shot over 40 percent from behind the arc.

 

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