Hawks-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 03, 2012
While the most recent addition to the Oklahoma City Thunder likely won't hinder the team's chemistry, it might take some time for the Atlanta Hawks and their new faces to come together. The Thunder look to build on their first win when they host the Hawks on Sunday night. Russell Westbrook scored 32, Kevin Durant had 23 points with 17 rebounds and veteran newcomer Kevin Martin added 19 as Oklahoma City (1-1) rebounded from a season-opening loss at San Antonio with a 106-92 home win over Portland on Friday. Martin's performance followed a 15-point effort against the Spurs in his Thunder debut after they acquired him from Houston in a trade for NBA Sixth Man of Year James Harden last weekend. Martin is expected to fill Harden's role as leader of Oklahoma City's second unit. Reserve forward Nick Collison added 12 points as the Thunder reserves outscored the Trail Blazers' bench 42-15. "You have to have a punch coming off the bench," said Martin, who averaged 17.1 points while limited to 40 games due to shoulder and foot problems with the Rockets last season. "I think that's one of our biggest strengths right now. "We've just got to keep on jelling as a group and help the first unit when they need a little rest.'' As a collective group, the Thunder shot 51.3 percent and outscored the Blazers 44-24 in the paint. They held Portland to 36.0 percent shooting. "When you talk about chemistry with our group, you haven't been around our group,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "James (Harden) was a good player but it wasn't Dr. James. He wasn't helping the group stick together. All the guys do that.'' Durant and Westbrook remain the backbone of the reigning Western Conference champions, totaling 96 points, 44 rebounds and 23 assists through two games. Durant has averaged 31.2 points in his last six games versus Atlanta and Westbrook 25.3 in the last three against the Hawks. Durant scored 35 and Westbrook added 25, but Oklahoma City's four-game winning streak versus Atlanta ended with a 97-90 road loss March 3. The Thunder will try for a third straight home win over the Hawks, who look to bounce back after a 109-102 season-opening defeat to the Rockets on Friday. Lou Williams scored 22 points in his Atlanta debut while Josh Smith added 18 with 10 rebounds as the Hawks began a new era without six-time All-Star Joe Johnson, who was traded to Brooklyn in July. While Smith and Al Horford remain in the fold, newcomers like Williams, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson will try to quickly mesh together in their new surroundings. "We're still trying to establish an identity,'' said Hawks coach Larry Drew, who watched as Harden lit up the Hawks for 45 points. "That may take a little time to do.'' Williams averaged a career-high 14.9 points with Philadelphia last season when he was runner-up to Harden for the Sixth Man award. Smith also is off to a good start after he set career highs while averaging 18.8 points and 9.6 boards last season. Smith had 30 and 12 rebounds against Oklahoma City in March.
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