The Atlanta Hawks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-93 to make it 15 wins in a row, setting a new franchise record against a team that plays the exact opposite style. Having more offensive talent didn’t really help Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Durant was held to 8-of-22 from the field, his third consecutive game of shooting under 44%. The Hawks were led by Paul Millsap with 22 points, followed by Jeff Teague with 17 points (and 9 assists) and a double double for Al Horford with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Westbrook started out well (13 points in the first quarter) but made too many mistakes and turnovers down the stretch, as the Hawks played excellent defense with pressure and timed double teams, while their movement on offense took advantage of laziness and bad rotations on almost every screen.
If at the end of their time together Scott Brooks doesn’t win a championship with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on his team, it’ll be his limited offensive coaching ability that will be blamed first and foremost. The Thunder have talent even beyond their two superstars that most of the league should be envious of, but they remain a team that works on isolation and lives and dies on whether the two of them are having a good shooting day or not.
The Hawks keep passing every test that’s in front of them. With the Golden State Warriors still playing extremely well it’s hard to look at them at the number one contenders, but at the moment, they seem like a team without flaws, or at least good enough to make up for the ones that can come up. Regular season wins don’t usually contain an indication about the playoffs, but we might be seeing the extension of the trend that began last year – the teams trying to rely on superstars are destined to fail if enough teams play basketball the right way.