Blame could (and should and, likely, will) fall on the fourth quarter offense, it again featuring a bevy of jump shots (mostly missed) interspersed with the occasional touch for Al Horford or Josh Smith in the post (mostly successful) and resulting in far fewer points than the Hawks proved themselves capable of scoring through three quarters. The flip side of that blame is the credit due Atlanta's offense through three quarters against the league's fourth-best defense. The Hawks did an excellent job of getting the ball to Horford in positions that allowed him to attack Nenad Krstic. Had Horford done a better job converting his first handful of chances the Hawks might have been able to control the game down the stretch. Because, you see, the Hawks defended the Thunder pretty well in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City looked like a young team with only one consistently good offensive option in the half-court. Which they are. If only the Hawks still had either of those excuses.
Through three quarters, Oklahoma City's offense fared better. Despite the low number of possessions (due to lots of offensive rebounds) the game was played at a fairly high tempo and, for once, the Hawks were the less athletic looking team. Even in the half-court, Oklahoma City did a good job of moving the ball, moving without the ball, and attacking mis-matches. It has to be hugely encouraging to Thunder fans that Thabo Sefolosha did enough damage in the low post against Mike Bibby that Mike Woodson was forced to pull his starting point guard three minutes and four seconds into the second half.
Sefolosha's absence was notable during Atlanta's seven-point offensive explosion between 5:48 and 4:41 of the fourth quarter. Two Joe Johnson's jumpers sandwiched a Josh Smith and-1 to cut Oklahoma City's lead from seven to two. Unfortunately that brief spell followed a 6:12 stretch to open the quarter wherein the Hawks scored four points on 2-12 shooting and preceded a final 4:41 where the Hawks scored five points and made just one more field goal, Mike Bibby's three-pointer with 4.8 seconds left.
In all, Joe Johnson was 3-8 from the floor in the fourth quarter. Jamal Crawford was 0-6. Mike Bibby was 1-4. Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia each missed their lone field goal attempt in the fourth. Al Horford made his only field goal attempt. Josh Smith made one of two shots plus he earned and made all three Atlanta free throws in the final quarter. That's nine points for the backcourt in 18 shot attempts, seven points for the frontcourt in five shot attempts. Once again, the Hawks went to the dry well of perimeter jump shots or contested drives to the basket. That the Hawks got so many low-quality shots, in part, because Smith and Horford combined for four offensive rebounds in the final quarter makes their absence from the culmination of so many unsuccessful possessions all the more curious.
- Horford and Smith, to their further credit, were the only Hawks to do any significant business on the defensive glass and combined for 11 assists.
- Johnson, Crawford, and Bibby combined to take twice as many shots as the post duo but combined for just four more assists on countless more touches.
- Mike Woodson sat Marvin Williams for the final 18:14 of the first half with two personal fouls. Williams finished the game with two personal fouls and spent the final 8:40 of the game on the bench.
- Mario West got off to a slow start as Williams' prolonged, unnecessary absence earned the third string small forward got some second quarter run, being involved in a botched pick-and-pop play that led to a wide open Jeff Green three-pointer and getting baited into fouling* Kevin Durant 28 feet from the basket and giving up three free throws but played well for the duration of his time on the court, especially on pair of possessions where he kept first Durant then Green in front of him long enough for Josh Smith to arrive bearing devastating help defense. He even contributed offensively, cutting into the lane against Oklahoma City's zone to create a passing lane for Josh Smith to find Mike Bibby in the corner for a three.
- Should Jeff Green or Russell Westbrook become an efficient scorer to complement Durant, Oklahoms City will be really, really good.
- Speaking of Green, his dunk over Josh Smith harkened back to Travis Outlaw's game-winning exploitation of Smith's lack of lateral movement two MLK holidays ago.