Three-Point Barrage, 2nd Quarter Burst Fuel Thunder Win– OKC 124, ATL 109

Alex Abrines’ family flew across the Atlantic Ocean to get to Oklahoma City. The least he could do was dial in from long distance a few times in return. 

After missing three and a half games due to illness, Abrines tried to work his way back over the past three games, but just couldn’t get anything to drop. Finally, on the last game on this visit for his parents and his grandmother, who made her first trip to Oklahoma City from Spain, Abrines erupted. The Mallorcan knocked down 7-of-11 three-point attempts, setting a new career-high in makes from behind the arc on his way to 21 points.

“It’s really special,” said Abrines after the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. “Especially for my grandma. She made a really good effort to come here, watching me play in the NBA. To be able to play that good game is a way to give her something to her back.”

Time and again, Thunder guards like Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schröder drove into the lane and found Abrines on the wing, and that type of movement seemed to be contagious all over the floor. On one impressive sequence, Paul George drove middle and dished to Deonte Burton in the corner, who made a one-touch pass back up the wing to Jerami Grant. The lanky forward immediately drove towards the rim with his left hand, flinging a one-handed pass under the rim for a wide open three for George, who had relocated back out to the opposite wing.

That’s just how the ball was zipping around on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, as the Thunder racked up 30 assists, had six different players in double figures, knocked down a season-high 18 three-pointers and ran away with a 124-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to move to 14-7 on the season, including 14-3 since the 0-4 start and 12-3 in the month of November, tied for best in the NBA. 

“The team did a really good job moving the ball. We can do that, or even better,” said Abrines.  

It wasn’t exactly a red-hot start for the Thunder, and in fact it took until part way through the second quarter to really explode. After starting on an 11-3 run, the Hawks punched back with a 13-2 response, and it was just a two-point Thunder lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second, everything changed as the defense hunkered down, the bench unit thrived and shots started to drop in droves, as Head Coach Billy Donovan’s group shot 52.3 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from the three-point arc. Defensively, the Thunder forced 21 turnovers, which led to 31 points.

It took someone who really needed to see the lid on the rim open up for the entire team to take off. Up 35-33, the ball swung to Patrick Patterson above the break, and he set up into his motion as he always does. This time, the ball swished through the net, and Patterson drained his three-pointer. If it was the two free throws he hit that got him going, but Patterson’s triple gave the Thunder the same kind of jolt. Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club ripped off a 20-3 run after that bucket, breaking open the game for good. 

“It was good to see them finally go in,” said Patterson, who scored 13 points. “The guys did a great job penetrating to the basket. That created opportunities throughout the course of the game for all of us to take open shots.”

“It’s just OKC basketball,” Patterson added. “Playing great defense, getting stops, finishing plays with rebounds and coming down on the offensive side trying to get early baskets in transition and guys hitting shots and looking for one another.”

The Hawks managed to make a charge in the third quarter and pulled to within 10, but Abrines quieted the burst with another one of his three-pointers. Up by as many as 24, it was important for the Thunder to continue playing its brand of basketball against a young, hungry, rebuilding Hawks team who was playing with nothing to lose. Getting to keep the starters on the bench for most of the fourth quarter and let the reserves rack up 49 total points, including 14 from Nerlens Noel on nearly perfect 6-for-7 shooting, was a victory within a victory for the long game that is an 82 game NBA schedule.

“Everybody is having fun out there, playing together,” said Schröder. “It was a good team win.”

“Guys just want to get each other involved and play the right way,” said Noel. “You really want to have everybody on the same wavelength and everybody active and making buckets when they’re important.”

Highlights: OKC 124, ATL 109