The Oklahoma City Thunder have won eight of their past 11 games, and come into Friday’s home contest against the Atlanta Hawks following an impressive offensive performance in a victory over Utah. The Thunder are above .500 for the first time since early November after Russell Westbrook finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 107-79 home rout of the Jazz, and Paul George and Carmelo Anthony each scored 10 points in the decisive third quarter.
“You’ve got to have fun and embrace the game,” Westbrook told reporters after the Thunder scored 107 points for just the second time in their past 10 games. “Go out and compete and have fun at the same time.” Atlanta is enduring a season that is anything but fun as the Hawks have won a league-low seven games after Wednesday’s 105-95 home loss to Indiana. The Hawks have yet to win consecutive games this season and their starters were outscored 77-49 by the Pacers’ starting five. “In the second half we kind of (slowed) down a little bit, kind of let off the gas,” Atlanta rookie big man John Collins told the media after scoring a team-best 18 points off the bench.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Atlanta), FSN Oklahoma
ABOUT THE HAWKS (7-24): Atlanta’s top two scorers - Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince - average a combined 32.4 points but together finished with just 16 Wednesday. Collins has been impressive, ranking fourth in the league in field-goal shooting (60.6 percent) after hitting 6-of-7 shots and all six free throws to go with nine rebounds against Indiana. The Hawks dropped from third in the NBA in 3-point shooting to eighth after making only 8-of-29 attempts Wednesday.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (16-15): Westbrook leads the NBA in assists per game (9.7) and George paces the league in steals per contest (2.45). Center Steven Adams returned from concussion protocol to score 11 points with nine rebounds against Utah, and is third in the NBA in field-goal percentage (63.3 percent). The trio of Westbrook (23.3 points per game), George (19.8) and Anthony (17.3) are averaging a combined 60.4 points per contest, despite all three shooting less than 41 percent from the field.
1. Atlanta G Marco Belinelli leads the NBA in free-throw shooting at 95.4 percent and has made his last 26 attempts.
2. The Thunder have outscored opponents in the third quarter eight times in 31 games - including Wednesday - and are 8-0 with seven victories by double digits in those contests.
3. Hawks F/C Mike Muscala, sidelined for 22 games with a sprained left ankle, will play a couple of games with Erie of the G-League.
PREDICTION: Thunder 112, Hawks 96