ATLANTA (TNS) — Neither a starting lineup change nor the return of Paul Millsap made a difference in the final result.
The Hawks lost again.
The plummet continues.
The Hawks dropped a 102-99 decision to the Thunder on Monday night at Philips Arena. The Hawks have now lost seven straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The Hawks did give a much more spirited effort than their previous two losses by a combined 80 points.
Millsap returned after missing three straight games with a sore left hip. Coach Mike Budenholzer tried to shake up the slumping team by inserting Thabo Sefolosha for Kyle Korver in the starting lineup.
Russell Westbrook recorded his sixth consecutive triple-double with a strong second half and finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Hawks (10-12) were led by Millsap with 24 points in his return. Dennis Schroder had 17 points and Korver finished with 15 points off the bench.
The Thunder (14-8) won their sixth straight game to coincide with the Westbrook triple-double streak. Steven Adams had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Thunder took a 15-point third-quarter lead.
The Hawks made a spirited comeback and closed to within three points midway through the fourth quarter. However, Westbrook scored seven straight points as part of a 10-4 Thunder run that pushed their lead back to nine points, 100-91, with three minutes remaining.
It is the NBA’s longest such run since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989. “I just read the game,” Westbrook said. “The game will tell you what to do.”
Westbrook has sparked a six-game winning streak by the Thunder and reached double figures in all three categories in half of their 22 games.
By contrast, Jordan had 15 triple-doubles for the entire 1988-89 season.
“Obviously, the league hasn’t seen something like this in a long, long time,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Korver’s new role
Korver played more than 31 minutes and seemed to thrive in his new role as a backup.
He finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, knocking down three of them beyond the arc. It was his most points in a game since Nov. 22. Korver had averaged 6.6 points over his last seven games, which led to his benching.
Oladipo wasn’t afraid to take on Dwight Howard in the lane.
During the second quarter, the 6-foot-4 Thunder guard drove the baseline and slammed one over Atlanta’s 6-11 center, rocking the rim and drawing gasps from the crowd.
Oladipo savored the moment, pumping his fists, stomping his feet and posing briefly in the lane even as the Hawks took off the other way.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a recruiting pitch to Howard while coaching at Florida.
During his pregame chat with the media, the Oklahoma City coach recounted a visit to Howard and his father at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.
Donovan quickly gave up any hope of getting Howard to attend college.
“All I had to do was watch one AAU game and then I stopped recruiting him immediately,” he quipped.
Howard, of course, went straight from high school to the NBA in the days before the rules required at least one year of college. He was the first overall pick by the Orlando Magic in 2004.
Thunder: Off until Friday, when they host the Houston Rockets.
Hawks: Back in action Wednesday when the Miami Heat visit Philips Arena.
Associated Press Sports Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.