This time, Jamal Crawford couldn’t save the Hawks at the end.
Coach Mike Woodson was more concerned about their start.
Confronted with an opponent that equals them athletically, the Hawks failed to match the Thunder’s intensity early. They rallied after trailing by 15 in the second half but Crawford missed a shot to tie it at the buzzer and the Hawks fell 94-91 at Philips Arena on Monday.
Crawford beat the Suns with a 3-pointer at the buzzer on Friday for the Hawks’ third straight victory, and this look was more open than that one.
“They played off of him, he had to take the shot,” Woodson said. “He just didn’t make it. It never should have came down to that.
“They were the more aggressive team. They came out to play, and we just didn’t.”
The Thunder was scrappy from the start, no surprise since that’s been its calling card under coach Scott Brooks. Star forward Kevin Durant (29 points) led a relentless attack at the basket while the Hawks settled for jump shots late.
The Hawks missed 7 of 8 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. Crawford was 0-for-3 and Mike Bibby was 1-for4.
“When you’re making them, they look good,” Woodson said. “When you are not making them, you have to get to the rim and try to at least get to the free throw line, and we just didn’t do it.”
The Thunder did so from the start and made 14 of 15 free-throw attempts in the first half, led by Durant’s 9 for 9. The Thunder built a seven-point lead after a quarter and 15 in the third largely on hustle and determination.
“We got outworked, it seemed like, in all aspects of the game,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith.
“I have to give them a lot of credit, they came in here after we won a big game against Phoenix and they played well,” Woodson said. “You try to alert your guys to get them ready. I thought we just thought we were going to show up and beat them.”
The Hawks eventually picked up their intensity and came back to tie it at 88-88 with 2:48 to play. But after Durant came off a pick to make a jumper, the Hawks’ offense stagnated and their shot selection deteriorated during their next three possessions.
Smith forced a driving shot late in the shot clock, Crawford missed a 3-pointer, and Joe Johnson missed a runner after he lunged into traffic.
“I was just trying to get contact,” Johnson said. “But it just didn’t go our way.”
The Thunder called a play for Durant on the next possession. Johnson denied him the ball on a pick so Green got past Smith and dunked over him while drawing the foul.
“I reached in and he kind of took my balance from me,” Smith said. “I had to contest the shot, but I knew he was going to make it because he can palm the ball extremely well and he had a step on me.”
Green made the free throw for a 93-88 lead. After Bibby finally made a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left, Durant made 1 of 2 free throws, setting up Crawford’s last shot.
He said he hesitated while waiting for a play for Bibby to develop. The Thunder covered that option and Green gave Crawford some space.
“I was a little surprised,” Crawford said. “It felt good when I let it go.”
Durant came up just short in his bid for six straight games of at least 30 points. Green had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Thunder center Nenad Krstic (16 points, 7 of 11 shooting) hurt the Hawks with midrange jumpers.
Johnson had 23 points for the Hawks, and Smith had 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Smith rejected the notion that the Hawks were caught flat-footed by the Thunder’s intensity.
“I don’t believe so,” he said. “They are a good team and they’ve proved themselves all year. I have a lot of respect for Oklahoma City. They are a young, exciting team and they play hard.”
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Credit: Courtesy Roman United / Jason Getz