Hawks expect to have hands full with Westbrook, Thunder
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks have a tough task as they try to end a swoon that has seen them lose nine of 10 games and six in a row, the last two in blowout fashion.
Next up Monday night in Atlanta for the Hawks is the Oklahoma Thunder and the amazing Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook had his fifth straight triple-double as the Thunder (13-8) defeated New Orleans 101-92 on Sunday night in Oklahoma City for their fifth straight victory.
Westbrook reached double figures in all three categories before the end of the third quarter and finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.
Westbrook has 10 triple-doubles in 21 games this season and his five in a row is the longest streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. He is averaging a triple-double at 31.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 11.3 assists.
The only other player to average double-figure numbers in all three categories this late into the season was Oscar Robertson in the 1960s.
“It's historic what he's doing, but there's also another side of it too, that he's a pretty complete point guard all the way around,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said recently, although Westbrook did have 10 turnovers against the Pelicans.
The Hawks, who had a six-game winning streak before the slump, are trying to snap out of their stupor after back-to-back losses of 36 points at home to Detroit and 44 points at Toronto on Friday and Saturday.
The loss to the Raptors, in which the Hawks (10-11) were outscored 42-14, is tied for the fifth-worst in franchise history.
“That 9-2 (record) seems like a long time ago,” veteran Hawks guard Kyle Korver said.
With Al Horford and Jeff Teague gone, the Hawks are a team that was expected to take time to jell, but no one expected something like this.
“We can't get frustrated with each other. We've got to stick together,” said center Dwight Howard, who had just 12 points in the past two blowout losses. “Nobody likes to lose like this, but things will get better as long as we don't split apart.”
The Hawks slump is their worst since coach Mike Budenholzer's first team lost 14 of 15 four years ago.
Howard, signed as a free agent to give the Hawks an inside scoring presence and rim protector, called a team meeting a week ago on the West Coast road trip, but things have gotten worse instead of better.
“We've got to get back to making our offense where it's special — where the ball is moving, guys are getting it in their sweet spots, guys are making the extra pass,” Korver said.
The Hawks have a new starting point guard in Dennis Schroder as well as a new player inside in Howard that changes the way the team has played offensively the past few years.
More practice time would help, but the Hawks' slide has come during a stretch of 10 games in 16 days, with eight on the road.
At least the Hawks' next two games are at home, with the Miami Heat following the Thunder on Wednesday.
The Hawks also likely won't have to face Thunder center Steven Adams, who sprained his left ankle in the first quarter against New Orleans.
The Hawks and Thunder split their two games last season, each winning at home.
Westbrook got a double-double in both games when the Thunder still had Kevin Durant, scoring 34 points in one and 23 in the other.