Wizards

Williams leads late push, Hawks top Thunder 104-95

201211041921697001750-p2.jpeg

Williams leads late push, Hawks top Thunder 104-95

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Before the tipoff Sunday night, Larry Drew said his new-look Atlanta Hawks were still trying to find their identity.

They might have found it by the time the game ended.

Al Horford had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Lou Williams added 10 of his 19 points during Atlanta's decisive fourth-quarter surge and the Hawks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-95.

``I thought the guys just came in here and rolled their sleeves up and played four solid quarters, and we're just really happy that we came in here and got a win,'' Drew said.

Williams hit a 3-pointer and a 24-foot jumper and converted a three-point play off a driving scoop in the lane during a 12-4 push midway through the fourth quarter that put the Hawks in front to stay. Williams' two free throws made it 91-84 with 4:44 to play, and Atlanta held off a final charge by Oklahoma City.

Williams ended up scoring 14 points overall during the fourth quarter as the Hawks won their road opener despite playing without starting forward Josh Smith because of a sprained right ankle.

``We've got new faces, a new team but we stuck with the offense. We believe in ourselves,'' said DeShawn Stevenson, who moved into the starting lineup and got the call down the stretch as Drew stuck with a mix of starters and reserves.

``This is a great team. This is a team that could easily go back to the Western Conference finals or the Finals, and to come out here without Josh Smith is big,'' he added.

Kevin Martin scored 28 points off the bench to lead the Thunder and Kevin Durant chipped in 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Durant was two assists shy of his first career triple-double but also wound up with six turnovers while shooting 2-for-9 in the second half.

Fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook had an off night, making 5 of 18 shots while scoring 14 points and passing out nine assists.

The Thunder's 21 turnovers led to 31 Atlanta points.

``I wish I could have had a couple of those turnovers back,'' said Durant, who has 20 assists and 16 turnovers in three games this season.

Oklahoma City pulled to 91-89 after Martin's 3-pointer from the left corner got the crowd roaring with 4:06 to play. Kendrick Perkins protested after being called for a foul for hacking Devin Harris on the arm on a baseline drive, and Harris hit both free throws.

On the next trip, Westbrook tried to save a rebound under the basket but ended up feeding Horford with a behind the back pass for a dunk. Another Horford dunk set up by Zaza Pachulia and Stevenson's 3-pointer - also off a Pachulia pass - bumped the lead to 100-91 with 1:28 to play.

That was too much for Oklahoma City to overcome.

Williams, the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last season with Philadelphia, was one of several acquisitions in an offseason roster shake-up that included Joe Johnson leaving for Brooklyn.

Martin, the Thunder's new sixth man after James Harden was dealt to Houston a week ago, got it going early with 22 first-half points. But it was Williams who finished it off.

``Lou got into a rhythm. He got into a rhythm and we were going to ride it,'' Drew said. ``I had to make a decision whether to bring (starters) Jeff (Teague) and Kyle (Korver) back, but the group that was in there, they had a good rhythm going and I did not want to do anything to disrupt that.

``So, we decided to ride Lou's hot hand and he made some really big baskets,'' he added. ``He made some really big plays for us.''

Atlanta turned 12 offensive rebounds - six by Horford - into 16 points.

Jeff Teague had 16 points but was replaced down the stretch by Harris, who was dropped out of the starting lineup in favor of Stevenson. Anthony Tolliver started in Smith's place, but it was Pachulia who played late and made assists on a couple key baskets.

``I thought the ball swung around a lot tonight, which shows the growth that this team has displayed over the past couple of games. Hopefully, that'll be something we can bottle up and use in the future,'' Williams said.

The Hawks hit four straight shots and scored 11 consecutive points to take the lead late in the first quarter, with Teague connecting on a pair of driving baskets and two free throws to make it 22-16. Atlanta's advantage reached as high as 10 after Williams' jumper in the first 2 minutes of the second quarter.

The Thunder outscored Atlanta 33-14 over the next 12 1/2 minutes to lead 57-498 early in the second half.

``We had a lot of breakdowns. We can't start the game off in cruise mode. We've got to go take it,'' Durant said after his team fell to 1-2. ``A team's not going to just let us feel our way into the game. We've got to go take the game.

``Early on, we just sat back and let them do whatever they wanted and that gave them confidence toward the end of the game,'' Durant added.

NOTES: Brenda Pantoja became the third woman to officiate an NBA game, following veteran official Violet Palmer and fellow rookie Lauren Holtkamp. Holtkamp, who made her debut in the Bulls-Cavaliers game on Friday night, are two of six non-staff officials who will work games this season. Pantoja, a former Arizona point guard who holds the school's career record for assists, has worked in the WNBA and NBA development league in recent years. ... The Hawks also won last season's only meeting. ... Durant, the three-time scoring champion, came in leading the NBA with 15.5 rebounds per game.

Quick Links

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

ap_18050145959742.jpg
Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

Quick Links

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.