Thunder drop high-scoring thriller against Hawks

Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

In a tight, high-scoring affair, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Atlanta Hawks 137-132.

With just 14 seconds left in the game, OKC was down by three looking to complete a late rally following a couple of John Collins free throws. The Thunder opted not to call timeout and let Shai Gilgeous-Alexander try to make something happen. Gilgeous-Alexander maneuvered into the paint and was blocked by Dejounte Murray before getting the ball back and losing control trying to draw a foul.

Murray came out of the scrum with the ball and then nailed two free throws to seal the win and snap Atlanta’s two-game losing skid. Along with making the most important play of the night, Murray extended his streak of scoring at least 20 points to seven games.

The Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the Atlanta Hawks in a track meet

All of the second-half fireworks overshadowed one of Tre Man’s best plays this season. The Thunder took a four-point lead after Mann ended the first quarter by stealing an inbounds pass and finishing with a thunderous dunk over Onyeka Okongwu.

OKC added some more depth with rookie forward Ousmane Dieng making his first appearance of the new year after missing the last 23 games. In his return, Dieng scored five points and nailed a three in just over 10 minutes.

A scoring burst from Trae Young late in the third helped Atlanta take a five-point lead going to the fourth. Young and Gilgeous-Alexander both entered the final quarter with 32 points.

That burst from Young was a catalyst for a 17-2 Atlanta run to take its largest lead of the night after a Mike Muscala three had tied the game. In typical OKC fashion, the Thunder immediately responded with nine straight points.

Ultimately, the Thunder’s comeback effort would fall short. After combining for 64 points through three quarters, the two superstars, Gilgeous-Alexander and Young, combined for just five points in the fourth quarter.

Grading the Thunder starters:

. Guard. Oklahoma City Thunder. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER. B+

Unsurprisingly, OKC’s superstar came up with another 30-point game, finishing with 36. SGA finished the second quarter especially strong. He scored 15 points in the last four minutes to inflate his first-half scoring total to 26. Through three quarters, this game looked like another typical all-star performance from Gilgeous-Alexander. However, this was an uncharacteristic fourth quarter from him.

In the fourth, Shai scored only four points and was bothered by the Hawks’ swarming defense. This was most evident on the biggest play of the night. He tried to force the officials to call a foul on his second shot attempt after being blocked on his first. In doing so, his tunnel vision may have cost the Thunder a shot to tie as John Collins helped off of a wide-open Jalen Williams in the corner.

Oklahoma City Thunder. JOSH GIDDEY. B+. . Guard

The improvement of the Thunder’s top playmaker is more evident each game. Against Atlanta, Giddey scored 16 points but missed his lone free throw and three-point attempt. As usual, he filled up the stat sheet in other areas. Giddey set up his teammates for scores six times and grabbed eight rebounds.

Giddey’s highlight-worthy play continued with a sweet behind-the-back pass to SGA for an easy bucket in the first quarter. Although he missed most of crunch time, he still gave the Thunder a couple of important baskets after being subbed in with just under a minute to go.

C+. . Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. LUGUENTZ DORT

A rather underwhelming night for Dort after his game-clinching defense in the Thunder’s last game in Denver. Still, the Dorture Chamber was in full effect against Trae Young. Eventually, Young got going in a big way, but it took a while for Young to fully figure out how to attack him.

Dort’s offense was solid. Dort used three makes from beyond the arc to help him get to 12 points. He was also very active, crashing the glass on offense, with each of his three rebounds coming on that end. Unfortunately for Dort, he did not get a chance to make those efforts late in the game as coach Mark Daigneault kept him on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.

A+. . Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. JALEN WILLIAMS

Jalen Williams again made his case for being the steak of the 2022 draft in this game. Williams finished three points shy of his career-high with 24. Along with his claim for steal of the draft, the 12th pick is also making his case for the dunk contest. Out of his 11 makes against the Hawks, five of them were dunks.

The rookie also showed some great instincts on the defensive end. Williams came up with four steals in a game for the fifth time this season. His most important steal came with OKC trailing by three in the closing seconds. Williams ripped Trae Young around half-court and quickly glided to the other end for his last jam of the night.

Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. KENRICH WILLIAMS. B.

Kenrich Williams did a little of everything for the Thunder against the Hawks. Williams tied Gilgeous-Alexander with seven assists to lead the Thunder against just one turnover. Finishing with nine points, Williams was the only one of the ten starters who failed to score in double figures.

Maybe Williams’s most impressive stat of the night was his plus-minus. In his 30 minutes on the court, OKC outscored Atlanta by 19 points.

Best off the bench:

. Guard. Oklahoma City Thunder. AARON WIGGINS. A-

Another guy for the Thunder who does a little bit of everything. Aaron Wiggins wasted none of his 14 minutes on the floor, always ready to make an impact. Wiggins did his thing on both ends of the floor as his defense contributed a steal on the night along with four rebounds.

Wiggins’s shooting touch also made an appearance. The second-year player knocked down three of his four shots from beyond the arc, tying his season-high for makes. Just like Kenrich Williams, Wiggins’s impact showed up in the plus-minus. Wiggins had the third-highest in his limited playing time, helping OKC outscore Atlanta by six in those minutes.

Best for the Hawks:

A. . Guard. Atlanta Hawks. TRAE YOUNG

The hometown kid showed off in front of the Paycom Center crowd. Young wasted no time to get his scoring started and drilled a floater on the game’s first possession. He continued getting to his spots throughout the night and finished the game with 33 points on 50% shooting.

While he is a talented scorer, his best ability may be his playmaking. Young achieved his 23rd double-double of the season, dishing out 11 assists. Although, he also had five turnovers, including a late steal by Jalen Williams. Nonetheless, Atlanta got the job done, and Young was a crucial part of getting the team back over .500 on the season.

Closing thoughts:

Moving forward, the Thunder will be expected to finish games like this one, especially on their home floor. Luckily for OKC, this is something every other team around them in the standings does. Despite being unable to get to .500 in this game, the Thunder have a chance to do that if they take care of business against Cleveland and Golden State to finish this home stand.

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