From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- 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.Sere Ibaka had 4 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder.NOTES:The Thunder assigned F Perry Jones and G DeAndre Liggins to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League. Jones, the first-round pick from Baylor, has appeared in 10 games, averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds. ... The Hawks were without G Devin Harris, who left Tuesday night's game at Washington after injuring his left foot. He wore a walking boot on Wednesday. ... Morrow returned after missing two games with a sore back. ... Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Kris Medlen and Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves attended the game and sat with former teammate Tommy Hanson, who was recently traded to the Angels.
When he learned last November that elite talent Luis Robert could be available by June 15, Marco Paddy didn’t hold back: It was time for the White Sox make their move.
Much like with Yoan Moncada before, the team’s international scouting director had an extensive history scouting Robert, who on Saturday signed with the White Sox after he received a $26 million signing bonus. After watching him for five years, Paddy believed in Robert enough to recommend the White Sox pay several severe penalties to sign a player the franchise thinks could be an everyday center fielder with power.
By signing Robert, 19, the White Sox must not only pay a luxury tax of almost equal value to the bonus, but they’re also unable to sign any international prospect for more than $300,000 in each of the next two classes. But given the limited competition and the unique talent he saw, Paddy let the White Sox know Robert -- a potential top-30 prospect in baseball -- was a player they couldn’t afford to bypass. Thus begun the team’s courtship, one the Cuban cited as having a major impact on his desire to sign with the White Sox. Now, the White Sox not only have Moncada after trading for him in December, but they also have another potential cornerstone to build around.
“From the beginning we were very serious about it,” Paddy said. “Knowing we weren’t going to have 29 other clubs competing against us was a good thing for us because we knew our competition pool was a lot smaller. We went in it with everything we had and if we missed out on some guys that’s fine, that’s the risk you take.
“It’s a dream come true to be honest with you, having those guys with that kind of ability together. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But I saw Moncada about the same age I saw Robert and it’s like Christmas in May.”
The pursuit of Robert -- a player general manager Rick Hahn describes as a “dynamic, potential talent” -- began in December at the winter meetings at National Harbor, Md. Having learned that Robert would potentially be a late addition to the 2016-17 international class, Paddy asked for a meeting with Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Paddy and Hahn had previously held several similar state-of-the-international-picture meetings to determine when to make a splash on the market.
This was different.
“Marco approached us and said, ‘This is the guy,’ ” Hahn said.
It was still a “what if” proposition because Robert not only had to establish residency, but he also had to receive clearance from Major League Baseball to be part of the 2016-17 class, a critical factor. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams could spend whatever they wanted on a player as long as they paid a luxury tax. But under the new CBA, teams are limited to a maximum of $5.25 million for bonuses.
While the White Sox felt Paddy’s familiarity with Robert would give them a chance if he wasn’t eligible until July 2 (the next class), they knew they’d compete against fewer teams for his services under the old rules. Hahn said back in March the White Sox intended to be a player either way. On Saturday, he said it was Paddy’s initial determination that spurred him into action.
“Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization,” Hahn said. “Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”
Then everyone else got involved and the White Sox went overboard to recruit Robert.
If Saturday’s pregame presentation is any indication, the White Sox pulled out all the stops.
As Robert was introduced for his press conference, he sat in front of banners featuring current and former White Sox from Cuba, including Alexei Ramirez, Minnie Minoso, Jose Abreu and Moncada.
Once he was on the field to throw out the first pitch, the team played a short video that was filmed Friday night on the scoreboard with numerous White Sox fans welcoming Robert to Chicago. As Robert trotted to the mound to throw his pitch to Abreu, team employees stood atop the home dugout with a sign that read “bienvenidos” and holding Cuban flags.
But the post-signing efforts were nothing compared to the team’s full-court press of Robert last month.
Hahn and Williams brought several showstoppers with them when they traveled to the Dominican Republic for a private workout with Robert last month. Included were a power point production and an iPad with a video presentation that the White Sox communications department put together in six days, Hahn said. Manager Rick Renteria narrated the short video in Spanish and it included personal messages for Robert from Abreu, Moncada and Michael Ynoa, who shares the same trainer (Edgar Mercedes) and worked out with Robert in the offseason.
“It was a beautiful video,” Robert said through an interpreter. “The part (that stood out) the most was when Ricky Renteria was talking straight to me, saying they need me here to win several championships.”
But more than the video, Robert said the desire displayed by the White Sox made his decision easy. Hahn said the White Sox felt confident heading into the final 24 hours that they were in the lead for Robert. Not only had they bid aggressively, Hahn thought the White Sox made a strong pitch. That feeling only increased last Saturday morning when Robert changed his Instagram avatar to a picture of him wearing a White Sox cap.
“The video helps a lot, but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest,” Robert said. “That was something that made me feel good.”
Paddy had seen enough in five years to feel confident in pushing the White Sox to be a player for Robert.
He first scouted Robert at the under-15 Pan American Championships in 2012 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Paddy’s interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-pound center fielder only grew as Robert matured physically. Paddy suspected that once Hahn and Williams would be on board once they saw the passion with which Robert played.
Robert described himself on Saturday as player who likes to fight and “give all that I have for my team.” Paddy said it wasn’t a difficult call to push Hahn when he considered the player’s tools and makeup, as well as the last opportunity to spend big on an international talent.
“You put all those things together, it becomes easy,” Paddy said. “As I watched him over the years grow, get stronger and get better, it became evident to me that if we had an opportunity to sign this guy, it would be a good thing for the organization.
“The level of ability, the tools that I saw that he had, and the past and now present, it’s something you don’t see every day.”
Usually when a pitcher walks six batters in one game, it’s an outing to forget.
Not the case, though, for Tyler Danish, who will always want to remember what went down Saturday on the South Side.
After making three relief appearances last season, Danish made his first big league start in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the visiting Detroit Tigers. And despite issuing a sextet of free passes, he allowed a goose egg on the scoreboard, earning his first major league victory in the White Sox 3-0 win.
“That's great. I mean you dream as a kid to pitch in the big leagues,” Danish said. “To get my first win in my first career start was special. I'm glad my mom was here, I'm glad she got to enjoy that. It was a very special day, something I'll always remember.”
Danish got into some early trouble and looked like he might’ve been heading for the same type of sky-high ERA that he put up in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it call up in 2016, when he turned in a 10.80 earned-run average in 1.2 innings. He walked three batters in the first inning Saturday, escaping thanks to a double play and a bases-loaded ground out to end the inning.
Twice more he had multiple runners on base, but he got out of those innings unscathed, too.
“He was throwing enough strikes that with the sinking action, he was able to get that ground ball in the first inning, the double play,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “Then most of the game he was still staying down in the zone. He was missing but just missing off on the fringes of the plate.
“I think he was very composed. The first couple of innings he was a little accelerated but he slowed down. In the end we wanted to make sure he was ready to go out and finish it.”
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Despite the walks, Danish impressed. In addition to throwing five scoreless innings, he allowed just three hits and struck out seven Detroit hitters. Danish became the first White Sox pitcher to throw at least five scoreless frames and give up three or fewer hits in his first big league start in nearly a decade. The last guy to do it was Lance Broadway in September 2007.
“I definitely was nervous in the first inning. I was expecting it,” Danish said. “I came in and tried to pitch as well as I could with that. But I did settle in after the first couple innings and just started breathing a little more. I felt comfortable and the bullpen did a great job, the defense did a great job.
“I think a little bit of nerves. Obviously you don't want six (walks) every game, but I thought I made good pitches when I needed to. Now, go and enjoy this thing and tomorrow we'll be back again.”
Even though offense was hard to come by, the White Sox hitters managed three runs against an otherwise dominant Michael Fulmer. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year yielded just six hits through his first seven innings of work, the lone run in that span scoring on a bases-loaded double play in the fifth.
The White Sox got to Fulmer slightly more in the eighth with runs scoring on a Leury Garcia triple and a Jose Abreu broken-bat bloop single. Fulmer still finished with fewer than 100 pitches thrown in his eight innings, recording every out for Detroit.
The White Sox bullpen was perhaps the most impressive unit of the game. Chris Beck, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson threw four scoreless innings and struck out nine hitters, including eight straight at one point.