Match ups have been a common theme around the Soaring Down South blog of late. Recently we have talked about how bad of a match up the Celtics have when taking on the Hawks. Conversely the Magic cause the Hawks all kinds of problems. Add the Oklahoma City Thunder to that same match up problem list.
With last night’s 106-99 victory the Thunder successfully completed the season sweep of the Atlanta Hawks. While this game got close at the end, it just seemed like the Hawks were laboring trying to stay in it. A Joe Johnson explosion and a switch to a zone defense allowed the Hawks to close the gap and tie the game but they never could get over the hump. When the Thunder needed points Kevin Durant got to the free throw line, if they needed a big shot then Jeff Green delivered, and most painfully to this writer if they needed a big offensive rebound then Russel Westbrook came up with that as well. The Hawks ultimately had no answer.
I touched on it in the preview that the Hawks needed to take advantage inside and control the offensive and defensive boards. The Hawks have seen their Defensive Rebounding efficiency slipping at an alarming rate. This is one of the areas that they will have to look to improve going forward. The Thunder completely owned the boards out rebounding the Hawks 45 to 35 with 17 being offensive rebounds. Al Horford and Josh Smith had 11 rebounds combined, Kevin Durant had 11 by himself. For that matter Russell Westbrook had 9 of his own.
Kevin Durant was huge scoring 33 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He was also 14 of 14 from the free throw line. The Thunder held a big advantage at the line making more free throws than the Hawks attempted (27 to 25)
For the Hawks Joe Johnson was yet again marvelous scoring 37 points on 13 of 20 shooting. The problem was the Hawks couldn’t get a consistent effort from anyone else and just could not come up with a stop or a rebound on the defensive end when they needed it. Josh Smith scored 15 points and recorded the one thousandth block of his young career becoming the youngest player ever to do so. Al Horford chipped in 14 and Mike Bibby had 12 points and 6 assists in what was one of his better performances in recent days.
It’s important for the Hawks to leave this loss in Oklahoma as they return to Phillips arena tonight to take on the Clippers in a game they really need to win. As a team they have been taking care of business at home and they absolutely have to keep that going tonight against the Clippers.