Photo by TorreyPurvey.com
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City has made it a habit of playing down to their opponents this season. Losses to Dallas and Orlando are just a few of the examples of when they allowed their opponent to stay in games.
When the Thunder hosted the Atlanta Hawks Friday night, the trend continued. But this time Russell Westbrook was able to save Oklahoma City in the final seconds with a game-winning shot as they pulled out a 120-117 victory.
“It was great,” an understated Westbrook said. ‘We put ourselves to be able to win a basketball game with the last shot and it went down.”
Westbrook led all scorers with 30 points on 12 of 17 shooting. He also collected seven rebounds and 15 assists.
“Just read and react,” Westbrook said of controlling the game. “Use your instincts and find ways to get guys the basketball.”
Carmelo Anthony tied a Thunder record with seven 3-pointers on his way to 24 points. Paul George added 17 points while Steven Adams chipped in with 16.
Marco Belineli led Atlanta with 27 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Ersan Ilyasova added 22 points in the loss.
Oklahoma City has now won eight of their last 11 games to move to 17-15 on the season. They head into Utah Saturday for the second game of a back to back.
However, the Thunder were close to heading into Utah with a sour taste in their mouths after letting a 16 point lead disappear. But Westbrook and company made sure not to let that happen.
Adams tipped back in a missed Anthony jumper with 43.9 seconds on the clock to give Oklahoma City a 116-112 advantage.
It looked like it was over before Ilyasova knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner. But as he was coming down, he hit Adams in the midsection. No foul was called and the Thunder led 116-115 with 38 seconds left.
The Thunder ran down the clock and got the ball to George. Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore fouled him as the shot clock ran down. However, George missed 1-of-2 free throw attempts and the Hawks only trailed by two with 15.9 on the clock.
Ilyasova tied the game with two free throws and the Thunder got the ball with 11.1 seconds left.
That was enough time for Westbrook to put on his Superman cape and save the day. After the ball was thrown into him from out of bounds, he sized up his defender before reigning down a 28-foot 3-pointer.
Atlanta was left with only 1.7 on the clock and got off a desperation heave that was off the mark.
“With his speed and explosion, it’s tough to get into him that far away from the basket, “Hawk’s coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He is attacking and getting down hill, that’s not easy. So when he pulls up from three or four feet behind the 3-point line, there is no doubt he is capable of doing it. He’s done it a lot of times. And he did it tonight. You just kind of tip your cap to him and just got to take it.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com