The Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder enter their late regular season battle as two teams with the same vision, but just as clearly as squads faced with vastly different avenues of arriving at the point of where they want to be.
In the case of the Hawks, by virtue of their blistering 53-15 start, they almost already have the top-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs wrapped up. The Thunder, on the other hand, are still battling for mere acceptance, battling New Orleans and Phoenix tooth and nail for the Western Conferences’ No. 8 and final playoff berth.
For the Thunder, with reigning league MVP Kevin Durant still sidelined by injury, these days it’s all about All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. Average OKC Thunder ticket prices will be set at an average of $175 for this pivotal home game. According to Totally Tickets, the get in is $44 when Hawks visit the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday night, but given the show Westbrook has become in recent weeks even that rates as a bargain.
In leading OKC back to at least envisioning the promise land over his last 10 games, Westbrook has averaged 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, propelling the Thunder back into the playoff picture after their unexpectedly slow start brought on by early-season injuries to both Westbrook and Durant.
Certainly, the Hawks can relate to overcoming lowered expectations. Despite having more All-star players than any other team at this year’s game, at the start of the season not many can earnestly claim they expected what Atlanta has shown themselves self to be.
Even after their 114-95 loss to the Warriors on Wednesday night, the Hawks lead the Eastern Conference by a mind-boggling ten games over the surging Cleveland Cavaliers and four-time league MVP LeBron James. Much of that credit goes to a ball-moving, seamlessly flowing offense where no man regularly stands out any more than the other.
Paul Millsap (17 points, eight rebound, three assists), Jeff Teague (17 points, seven assists), Al Horford (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists), Kyle Korver (12 points, four rebounds, three assists) and DeMarre Carroll ( 12 points, five rebounds, two assists) led the way.
The Hawks defeated the visiting Thunder back in back in January 103-93 behind 22 points and 1o rebounds from Millsap.