Published December 19, 2012
Only four teams can say they have gotten the better of the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. The Atlanta Hawks are one of them.
The Thunder look to avenge one of their rare setbacks this season on Wednesday night as they try to post the second-longest winning streak in club history in a rematch with the Hawks.
Oklahoma City owns the best record in the NBA at 20-4 and hasn't lost since Nov. 23, winning 11 in a row since. The club has had few bumps along the way, but one was a 104-95 home loss to Atlanta.
That defeat was the Thunder's second in three games to begin the campaign, but they have won 19 of 21 since and have put together a 14-2 record at home.
Their latest victory as the host came on Monday night, when they bested the San Antonio Spurs 107-93 in a battle of two of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Serge Ibaka had a monster night to lead Oklahoma City, hitting his first seven shots and matching a career high with 25 points while setting a season best with 17 rebounds.
"He did a great job of concentrating from the get go," said teammate Russell Westbrook, who had 22 points and nine assists. "He was ready to play as soon as we tipped ball, and he has been doing great all season long."
Kevin Martin contributed 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench and Kevin Durant finished with 19 points for Oklahoma City, which outscored the Spurs by a 29-16 count in the third quarter to break open a close contest.
The Thunder posted their longest winning streak since winning 11 in a row as the Seattle SuperSonics from Nov. 7-24, 1996. A win tonight would give the franchise its second-longest string of consecutive victories behind only a 14- game run from Feb. 3-March 5, 1996.
After winning all five games of their homestand, the Thunder will play their next three on the road and will try to avoid getting tripped up again by the Hawks.
Oklahoma City turned the ball over 21 times in the Nov. 4 loss to Atlanta, with Martin posting a game-high 28 points and Durant ending just shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
However, the Hawks got 23 points and 12 boards from Al Horford, while Lou Williams netted 14 of his 19 points in the final quarter as Atlanta outscored Oklahoma City by 13 points in the second half while shooting nearly 50 percent for the game.
The Hawks could have some tired bodies for tonight's rematch after going to overtime on Tuesday night against the hosting Washington Wizards. Atlanta was able to steal a 100-95 win as DeShawn Stevenson hit a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the extra frame.
Atlanta, coming off a 22-point home loss to Golden State, was paced by Williams' season-high 24 points, while Josh Smith netted 17 to go with 13 rebounds. Smith also came up with a big block on Washington's Nene in the closing seconds, his fifth of the game.
The Hawks were playing the Wizards for the third time this season and the teams went to an extra frame for the second time.
"It was tough. Any time you play a team over and over, they get a pretty good feel for you," Williams said.
Atlanta's Devin Harris suffered a foot injury in the first half and did not return to the game.
The Hawks are a perfect 4-0 in the second contest of back-to-back games and have won their past two versus the Thunder.
However, Oklahoma City has come away with a victory in seven of its last nine in Atlanta.