Josh Smith made the big shots down the stretch. Oklahoma City did not.
The Thunder lost for the first time in eight games Saturday night falling 97-90 on the road to the Atlanta Hawks.
Smith led the Hawks with 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists including some huge buckets when Atlanta needed them.
With 5:18 left in the game and Atlanta leading 83-79, Smith crashed the lane and crashed on Serge Ibaka stealing any momentum Oklahoma City had.
Then clinging to a 93-90 lead with 1:36 left, Smith isolated on the right side of the floor and converted a spinning one-hander from eight feet out to put the Hawks up 95-90.
The Thunder lost by seven but had their chances down the stretch as they missed their final five shots, four of which were three-point attempts.
Durant scored 35 points in the game but accounted for four of those final five misses in the last 1:17. Durant played 43 minutes in the game and the entire fourth quarter so some sort of physical or at least mental fatigue was probably the cause.
The shots were decent looks even the threes as Atlanta didn’t get all the way up on Durant and the shots were very close to dropping. On the road, you can’t always bail yourself out with long balls.
The Thunder really lost this game earlier as they turned the ball over 21 times in the game compared to just 12 for Atlanta.
The Hawks had more possessions because of that as well as some good work on the offensive glass by Zaza Pachulia who had nine offensive boards in 41 minutes of action.
The Hawks were short-handed without Joe Johnson and of course Al Horford but played hard defense all night and didn’t give up anything easy to Oklahoma City.
The Thunder got 35 from Durant and 25 from Russell Westbrook but only 10 from James Harden. Harden was a difference maker in the first half with seven points but very quite in the second scoring just once.
Kendrick Perkins was in foul trouble all night and eventually fouled out giving Cole Aldrich more run than usual. Aldrich looked promising with six points and seven rebounds (five offensive) to go with three blocks. It seems like if Aldrich can get more action he could become a very solid contributor for the Thunder.
People are going to knock Oklahoma City for the offense down the stretch but there really wasn’t much wrong with it. They’ve won games with offense worse than what they showed down the stretch. They didn’t isolate exclusively like we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from them and all of Durant’s looks came off screens away from the ball.
The Hawks just made it come down to Durant and Westbrook beating them by themselves and they made a few less shots than we’re used to and the Thunder came away with the loss.
Oklahoma City (29-8) is off Sunday and will return home Monday night to host the Dallas Mavericks (22-16) on NBA TV.