Going inside the Hawks’ 123-115 loss to the Thunder on Friday night in Oklahoma City.
Without Enes Kanter (ankle), and Serge Ibaka (knee) — and, not to mention, Kevin Durant, who is out indefinitely after experiencing soreness in his foot — the Thunder are lacking some size. Granted, they still have 7-footer Steven Adams, but the opportunity was there for the Hawks to take advantage.
One of Atlanta’s bigs did, only it was from beyond the arc.
Pero Antic was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers, hitting as many as he did in the last eight games combined, in setting a career high with 22 points, including 18 in the first half.
The performance has been a long time coming from the center, who hadn’t scored in double figures since he had 12 vs. the Pacers on Jan. 21. That game closed out the best stretch of Antic’s time with the Hawks as he scored at least 10 in five of eight points.
During that stretch, Antic hit 43.3 from distance, but in the 20 games between then Jan. 21 and Friday, the Macedonian was shooting just 15.9 percent on 3s and just 22.2 overall.
Antic’s break out couldn’t have come at a better time. It helped overshadow the Thunder holding the edge in the paint 54-50 (it was 36-28 at halftime) with Dion Waiters, who had 26 points overall, supplying 10 of them.
With the aforementioned Durant, Kanter and Ibaka out, there was no question who was going to have to shoulder the load for Oklahoma City against the Eastern Conference’s leader.
And all that being said, Russell Westbrook still had his way with the Hawks.
Coming in with an NBA-best eight triple doubles, he continued his assault of Jason Kidd — who is the last player to post more than nine when he had 13 in 2007-08 — and nearly did so in just two quarters.
Westbrook went into the second half with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds and finished with 36 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
The last time the Hawks had allowed a triple-double was Feb. 11, 2014 to the Bulls’ Joakim Noah, who had 19 points, 16 boards and 11 assists.
Westbrook’s masterful night — added with Wednesday’s defeat at the hands of the Warriors — gave the Hawks back-to-back losses to Western Conference playoff teams. It also dropped Atlanta to 3-3 on this road trip, its longest of the season.
But since the Hawks last played at Philips Arena on March 9, they lost Mike Scott to a toe injury (one that isn’t as severe as initially thought), Kyle Korver to a broken nose and Thabo Sefolosha still isn’t back yet from him calf injury.
There are silver linings, though.
The first is that, by virtue of the Wizards’ 113-99 loss to the Clippers on Friday night, Atlanta clinched the Southeast Division title, the franchise’s first since 1993-94.
Then there’s the fact that with 13 regular-season games to play, the Hawks (53-15) can still get to 60 wins — a franchise first — and the magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East is at three games.
With eight of the next 10 games against teams at .500 or below — Orlando, Miami, Charlotte (twice), Milwaukee, Detroit and Brooklyn (twice) — those goals are very much in sight and given that stretch, don’t be surprised if the Hawks rest starters down the stretch.
The Hawks return home for Sunday’s game against the Spurs hobbled and having lost consecutive games, but the positive news from the East leader’s perspective is it didn’t derail anything.
10.8 — The Hawks had nine steals against Oklahoma City, giving them an average of 10.8 per game during the road trip, higher than their season average (8.9).
30-plus — While Westbrook’s triple-double was the first allowed by the Hawks in more than a year, his point total was the highest for an Atlanta-yielded triple-double since Feb. 21, 1992, when Michael Jordan had 33 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.