With the returns of Lu Dort and Al Horford the Oklahoma City Thunder slipped to the Atlanta Hawks 116-93 at the State Farm Arena. The Thunder remain locked with the New Orleans Pelicans at 17-23 for the eleven and twelve seeds in the West. Atlanta continued their 7-0 hot streak under Nate McMillan with the victory, boosting up to 7th in the East at 21-20.
Oklahoma City started their night with a slight road bump, falling to a 13-6 deficit off a faulty 2-of-12 (20%) start from the field. The Thunder’s penmanship only worsened, sounding off three straight misses and a pair of turnovers to plummet 25-8 through the first eight minutes. A trio of bench triples helped ice the Thunder’s hole, however they slipped into the second quarter down 31-21.
The lack of ball movement cursed Oklahoma City in the game’s infant stages, losing the assist battle 9-1 before any bench players entered the contest.
Svi Mykhailiuk made his Thunder debut to start the second quarter, but it was the Jerome-Maledon combo that made the majority of plays in the first six minutes. Neither side covered much ground shooting below 50% in the quarter respectively, but a late 11-2 Hawks bolstered their lead as high as 22, wallowing to 61-41 to cap the half.
Oklahoma City found some rhythm in the third quarter, matching Atlanta bucket-for-bucket for the majority of the period, but a 12-3 Hawks spurt to close the period saw their lead expand to 91-65 to open the fourth. The Thunder found a safe haven in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who etched in 13 of the team’s 26 quarter points, but a combined 5-of-22 (22.7%) shooting from the remaining Thunder members led to their downfall.
Mark Daigneault used the fourth quarter to experiment with rotations. Svi Mykhailiuk heard his name called for a little over ten minutes in the fourth, while others such as Ty Jerome played the entire twelve minutes — the deficit was just too big to overcome.
Atlanta recorded two players with 23 points a piece in Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic while big man John Collins feasted with 19 points and 3 blocks.
Oklahoma City was suffocated by Atlanta’s defense for a full 48 minutes. The Thunder struggled, being held to a paltry 36.2% from the floor, their second lowest output of the season. The Hawks smothering defensive presence inside also suffocated the Thunder’s playmaking ability, resulting in their second-straight game with under 20 assists, this time with 16.
Ty Jerome made the best out of a tough situation, invigorating the Thunder with a career-high 18 points (6-of-10 FG) off the bench. Jerome has not shied away from the three-ball all year, shooting 58.2% of the time from distance. That was no different Thursday as the guard hoisted 8 of his 10 attempts from distance, converting on 6-of-8 tries. Jerome turned this contest into a quick shootaround, jacking up triples from all five spectrums of the arch with little pushback. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a stinker of a first half tacking just 4 points on the board off 1-of-9 shooting. The 22-year-old made up his rocky start with 15 second-half points (8-of-9 FG) to finish the night with a team-high of 19 digits. SGA was the epicenter of Nate McMillan’s defense attack, being fended off from inside shots and clogged of any potential passing lanes, only salvaging 4 assists on the game. Al Horford had a quiet return game, providing 11 points; however it took 13 shots to get there (3-of-13 FG.) Horford played with a limited 24-minute role, but he still steamed off solid job on the glass with 6 boards. Theo Maledon and Kenrich Williams finished their respective campaigns with 10 points each. Maledon continued his three-point shooting in his bench role cracking two makes while going to his patented runner for a pair of makes. Williams fell off the mark on both his threes, but his 5-of-8 clinic in the paint made up for it. Moses Brown met his match in Clint Capela and John Collins as the tandem forced Brown into blanketed shots for 5 points (2-of-7 FG.) Brown transferred his work on the offensive glass into Thursday with 3 offensive boards, but none of them amounted to much of anything. Svi Mykhailiuk posted an empty 0 point statline (0-2 FG) in his Thunder debut, instead being used as a corner-sitter for an overwhelming segment of his 16 minutes.
Up next, the Oklahoma City Thunder (17-24) will take a rare two-day break before squaring off Sunday with the ice cold Houston Rockets (11-28,) a unit sliding on a league worst 18-game losing streak.