Originally Published: Nov 21, 2009 12:24 AM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Staff and AP Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City Thunder fans had to be entertained Friday night at the Ford Center.Kevin Durant scored 35 points and Russell Westbrook added 26 as the Thunder exploded to a 127-108 victory over the Washington
Wizards. Undoubtedly most fans were
excited by all of the scoring. Too bad
for the Thunder, coach Scott Brooks isn’t like most fans.
"We have to get it straight: Our players understand that you get burned more times than not if you play this style of basketball with our group right now, where we are as a team," said Brooks, who finished his first 82 games with a 29-53 record. "We have to continue to get better defensively, but it was a good win."
Oklahoma City started 2-17 under Brooks following the firing of P.J. Carlesimo, but has since gone 27-36 -- including 7-6 to begin this season.
"He's made our identity for us," Durant said. "Last year, we didn't know what kind of team we were. This year, we're a defensive-minded team that plays hard every night.
"Of course, you're going to have slip-ups through the year."
The game was evenly matched through the first three quarters. However, in the fourth quarter, Brooks started playing with his lineup.
First, the coach decided to go with three guards in the lineup. That move lead to nine point run that helped the Thunder stretch its lead to 91-81.
Then Brooks pulled his center and went with an even smaller lineup. The move worked, as Oklahoma City continued to pull away.
"It made it easier on the defensive end, and we also got out quick on the break and got some easy points," Durant said.
The Thunder's top-5 draft picks from the last two drafts hooked up on the game's most electrifying play to help seal it.
James Harden tipped the ball away from Caron Butler along the left sideline and kept it inbounds by whisking it behind his back to Westbrook, who returned the favor by tossing the ball behind his head to set up Harden's left-handed jam that made it 111-94 with 6 minutes left.
"They've been playing with each other since they were probably 9 and 10 years old, so they already had that connection," Durant said. "It was an unbelievable play."
Butler scored 24 for the Wizards, who have lost seven of eight. Gilbert Arenas had 23 points, Antawn Jamison contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds in his second game of the season, and Brendan Haywood had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Washington fell behind early and spent the whole night playing catch-up.
"That's been our motto for at least seven out of our 10 games. We've been playing uphill," Arenas said. "We need to start coming out aggressive. I don't know what it is, but we need to come out and start getting stuff going."
Oklahoma City opened an early 28-16 lead, only to let Washington claw back to tie the game at 32 on Butler's 3-pointer to start the second quarter. Thabo Sefolosha had a 3-pointer and a right-handed jam in an 8-0 surge that put the Thunder up 46-38, but again the Wizards got back within two before the deficit grew back to nine.
Arenas' 3-pointer from the right wing got Washington within 66-65 in the third quarter before the Thunder extended their lead again with a 16-6 spurt, capped by Sefolosha's 3-pointer that made it 82-71.
Naturally, the Wizards countered by reeling off 10 straight points -- getting within one before Brooks' strategic move helped Oklahoma City take control for good, whether he liked doing it or not.
"Some teams play this way. We can't get baited into playing this way," Brooks said. "Sometimes we have to continue to get better at playing our style of basketball. We have to do things who we are, and we are a defensive team that gets stops and gets excited on the defensive end."
Oklahoma City finished with a 28-10 advantage in fast-break scoring, including 17-2 in the second half.
"They've got so many jumpers where they can go small and get rebounds still. So, that's an advantage for them," Arenas said. "Keep the lane spread open while Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Jeff Green just attack the rim with no big. That's just what they did to try to keep Brendan out of the game."
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