McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Sports

February 9, 2013

Heavy dose of Kevin Durant backed with powerful lineup

NORMAN — When opposing teams come into Oklahoma City, they know to expect a heavy dose of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They have proven to be a dangerous team when the dynamic duo are both knocking down shots.

But the Thunder become close to unbeatable when the wealth is spread through the entire lineup. This is what Phoenix found Friday when five players scored in double figures for Oklahoma City as it rolled through the Suns 127-96 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“It’s a matter of pick your poison with them,” Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. “They have a lot of guys that aren’t in the headlines, but do a lot for their team. They have a bunch of co-stars who do a great job.”

In the Thunder’s three-game homestand, they won by an average score of 119.3 to 95.0. Durant and Westbrook did not play in the fourth quarter as the contest got out of hand in the third period.

“I love not playing no fourth quarters,” Westbrook said. “It’s great. Good for my legs. Good for my body. We have done a great job of taking care of business. Scotty (Brooks) emphasized to us we need to play a better fourth quarter. But we haven’t played one yet. So maybe he will change his mind on that one.”

Durant took only 11 shots, but was 4 for 5 from 3-point range as he led the Thunder  with 21 points. He also collected six rebounds and four assists. Kendric Perkins was 8 for 9 from the field to post 17 points and pull down a game-high nine rebounds. Thabo Sefolosha added 18 points, Russell Westbrook 17 and Kevin Martin 13.

Oklahoma City (38-12) is now 17-1 this season when five players score 10 or more points.

Michael Beasley came off the bench to pace the Suns (17-34) with 25 points and seven rebounds. Goran Dragic posted 19 points and six assists. All three of the Thunder’s wins over the Suns this season have been by more than 10 points.

“The most disappointing thing was everybody hanging their heads down,” Dragic said. “We should fight. It doesn’t matter if it’s 30- or 25-point difference, we should try to fight every possession. That’s the only way you can get better. Their confidence is way down and they just hang their heads down. It’s really frustrating.”

The Thunder were blazing hot to start the game, hitting their first six shots, including a massive two-handed dunk by Westbrook and a 3-

pointer from Durant in the first 60 seconds that forced Hunter to call a timeout.

But Dragic kept the Suns from getting run out of the building early as he scored 13 of the team’s first 15 points. Westbrook had no answer for him on the defensive end.

Durant started the night camped out behind the arc. But midway through the second, he added another highlight to his ever-growing list when he dribbled the ball from halfcourt and turned the corner on his defender, leaving an open lane for him to throw down a dunk on the Suns’ Markieff Morris.

The Thunder led 55-50 at halftime.

Oklahoma City went on a 17-5 run to start the third that saw every player get involved. Perkins was knocking down jumpers from 17-feet out.

“I’m just going to keep working,” Perkins said. “Guys are doubling Kevin and Russ now, so I’m just trying to find the open spot. I’ve been watching a lot of film and going to the gym and working on my game.”

However, it was the Thunder’s defense that sparked the victory. After Dragic victimized Westbrook in the first quarter for 16 points, Thunder coach Scott Brooks moved Sefolosha onto him the rest of the game. Dragic was held scoreless until 1:16 left in the third.

Phoenix went more than six minutes without scoring a point as Oklahoma City took a 21-point lead into the fourth.

“It’s great that guys have confidence,” Westbrook said. “That’ s what we need for guys to be confident. In the first half we kind of just let them move around and do what they want. Once we defend, ain’t too many teams that can stop us from scoring.”

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