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Kevin Durant's triple-double leads Oklahoma City Thunder past Atlanta Hawks

By
Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant is best known for his scoring ability, and he currently ranks fourth in the NBA in that category.

But he switched gears slightly when the Thunder hosted the Atlanta Hawks Thursday. Instead of trying to light up the Hawks with a barrage of baskets, he racked up a triple-double to lead the Thunder to a 107-94 victory at the Chesapeake Arena.

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Durant scored a game high 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go along with 10 assists and 12 rebounds.

"I just try to play the game and make it simple for myself," Durant said. "I knew last time they expected me to be aggressive and score every time I got the ball. So I just tried to switch the game up. Get Serge (Ibaka) open. Get Russ (Westbrook) shots. Get Steven (Adams) shots. I think it's contagious when your top guys do that. Russ did a great job of setting the tone."

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Ibaka had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Westbrook finished with 23 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for Oklahoma City (14-8).

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It was the first time Westbrook and Durant both had at least 20 points and 10 assists apiece.

Guard Kent Bazemore came off the Atlanta bench to score 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Guard Jeff Teague scored 18 points for the Hawks (14-10), but forward Paul Millsap was held to seven points and eight rebounds.

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"They have good players," Millsap said. "When we make a run, they have players that can fill up the stat sheet and stop those runs. I think we did a great job of competing and getting back in the game. But we have good players too, and we have to find a way to get over that hump.

Durant put the Thunder up 92-83 with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. Millsap hit a tough one-handed jumper to close gap to seven points.

Durant drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Millsap sank three of four from the foul line before Durant hit another jumper.

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Trailing 97-90, the Hawks had the ball with 2:38 left in the game. Bazemore missed a 3-point attempt, and the Thunder got the rebound, leading to an Ibaka jumper.

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After another defensive stop, Durant put the game away when he took a pass from Westbrook and threw down a dunk to give Oklahoma City an 11-point lead with 1:40 on the clock.

"We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I don't think at times we were playing that well. Oklahoma City was playing at a very high level."

The Hawks' defensive philosophy to start the game seemed focused on preventing Westbrook or Durant to easy shots. Each time either touched the ball, Atlanta tried to force a pass.

It was Ibaka who took advantage of the open shots first. He posted 11 points in the first nine minutes.

Bazemore entered and began lighting up the Thunder defense. He kept the Hawks in the contest by shooting 6-for-6 in the first half for 18 points, but Atlanta trailed 60-49 at halftime.

Defense and hot shooting allowed the Hawks to claw their way back into the game. They trailed 76-75 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Thunder ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 83-75 going into the fourth.

One of the biggest changes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made in recent games is to stagger the minutes of Westbrook and Durant to make sure at least one of them is on the court at all times. That has allowed Oklahoma City to end quarters in a strong fashion.

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"It's another step in the right direction," Donovan said. "I thought our guys did some really good things."

NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant began the night 10th in the NBA in shooting percentage at a career-high 52.9 percent. ... After returning to action Wednesday from a sore hip, Atlanta C Tiago Splitter sat out Thursday's contest. Coach Mike Budenholzer said the move was precautionary. "He came out of it very well," Budenholzer said. ... With the Thunder in the midst of a three-game stretch in which they are playing teams for the second time this season, first-year coach Billy Donovan talked about what's he has learned. "It's more about how they are guarding us and how we're guarding them," Donovan said. "And then what adjustments we need to make. I think you always gather a little more information. Not so much that you've seen them up close and personal, but how they played against us."

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