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December 21, 2012

Thunder beats Atlanta for 12th straight win

ATLANTA — Oklahoma City's biggest stars displayed a unique version of balanced scoring against Atlanta: Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in the first half and Kevin Durant dominated the Hawks over the final two quarters.

Durant set a season high with 41 points and Oklahoma City held off Atlanta 100-92 on Wednesday night for its 12th straight win.

Westbrook had 27 points — 21 in the first half — and 11 assists. Durant scored 28 points in the second half, including 18 in the fourth, and also had 13 rebounds.

No other Oklahoma City player scored in double figures.

"There's going to be nights where one has the hot hand and there's going to be other nights the other does," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

Both top scorers were hot against the Hawks. Durant made six of nine shots in the final period, including three 3-pointers, and the Hawks couldn't find a way to slow the 6-foot-9 forward.

"We double-teamed him, we zoned him," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "He still made shots. You can't stop him when he's hot like that."

Durant said Westbrook's strong first half helped open more opportunities for him after the break.

"He was aggressive and they were giving him jump shots," Durant said. "We just played off of that. He was very good and it opened up for me in the second half."

Durant acknowledged he launched some "questionable" shots. "But my teammates wanted me to do it," he said.

Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points, Josh Smith had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Al Horford and Lou Williams scored 13 apiece.

Durant was especially strong after Atlanta cut a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter to 73-69.

Durant slowed Atlanta's comeback attempt when he dominated a sequence on both ends of the floor, blocking a shot by Smith before throwing down a jam. Smith drew a foul and Durant sank the free throw to push the lead to 85-75.

With about 3 minutes remaining, Durant hit a fallaway jumper. Less than a minute late, he made a spin move and then sank a 3-pointer over the 6-foot-7 Kyle Korver, who was left shaking his head.

"He's just one of those players," Korver said. "People don't understand how tall he is and how long his arms are."

The fallaway jumper and spinning 3-pointer would have been unlikely attempts for most players.

"That's him, though," Horford said. "He can do it. He's that good of a player, unfortunately for us."

Oklahoma City (21-4) improved the NBA's best record and atoned for a 104-95 home loss to the Hawks on Nov. 4. That loss left Oklahoma City 1-2; it is 20-2 since then and hasn't lost since Nov. 23 at Boston.

The 12 straight wins matches the longest streak for the franchise since 1996, when it had a 14-game winning streak as the Seattle SuperSonics.

The Hawks took their last lead at 19-17 on a follow shot by Anthony Morrow. The Thunder then went ahead with a 10-1 run that overlapped the end of the first period and the start of the second. Martin opened and closed the run with jumpers.

Oklahoma City stretched the lead to 17 on four straight free throws by Durant following fouls by Morrow late in the half.

"You can't have a second quarter like we did," Horford said. "We had a lapse and they took a big lead. You can't do that against a team like them."

The Thunder led 68-52 midway through the third quarter, but a technical foul against Smith with 3:12 remaining in the period seemed to spark the Hawks.

Smith sank a 3-pointer as part of Atlanta's 8-0 run to close the period. Anthony Tolliver scored the first three points of the fourth quarter on a free throw and jam to cut the Thunder's lead to 73-69.

Westbrook ended Atlanta's 11-0 run with a jam following an offensive rebound by Nick Collison.

Serge Ibaka had 4 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder.

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