The first game of the Scott Brooks era ended with another loss, but Oklahoma City is hoping its improved play on Saturday will start producing some wins.
The Thunder look to snap their 11-game losing streak on Tuesday night when they host the Phoenix Suns.
Following the firing of coach P.J. Carlesimo on Saturday, the Thunder lost 109-97 that night in New Orleans in the second game of a home-and-home series.
“We shared the ball a lot better tonight and we played with a lot more energy,” said Brooks, the interim coach. “Our guys are tired right now, and it’s a good tired. They played with the kind of energy our fans can be proud of. This was a tough day, with the team in some tough circumstances, and they came to play and leave it on the court.”
A night after losing by 25 to the Hornets, the Thunder (1-13) trailed just 92-87 with 5:45 remaining.
“We played the right way,” guard Earl Watson said. “We’ve had games where we were close but didn’t play the right way most of the game. This time, you could see a different flow.”
Oklahoma City—the league’s worst shooting team at 41.2 percent—made a season-best 52.8 percent from the floor.
Kevin Durant, averaging 21.8 points, made 11-of-16 shots and scored 30. He is making 46.2 percent of his attempts in 2008-09—up from 43.0 percent during his rookie season, when he averaged 20.0 points in four games versus the Suns.
Jeff Green had his second-best shooting night of the season, hitting 7-of-11 and scoring 17 points, and Chris Wilcox posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma City scored its most points since a 116-106 loss to New York on Nov. 14.
The Thunder are the league’s 29th-ranked scoring offense with 89.5 points per game.
While Oklahoma City looks for its second win overall, the Suns (9-5) go for their second straight victory.
After averaging just 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in back-to-back losses to Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal notched his fifth double-double on Saturday with 19 points and a season-high 17 boards as the Suns defeated Portland 102-92.
It was O’Neal’s most rebounds since he grabbed 18 in a 126-113 loss to Denver on March 5.
“Shaq has been great all year at getting the ball in the post,” Phoenix coach Terry Porter said. “When they double, he’s kicking it out and our guys have just been in a position to knock shots town.”
Phoenix, which hit 53.3 percent of its shots, improved to 5-1 when shooting 50 percent or better. The Suns, who also hit 8 of 18 from 3-point range, lead the NBA in shooting at 49.7 percent.
Raja Bell, who went 6-for-6 from beyond the arc in a 110-98 victory in the most recent game between the teams, is shooting 45.0 percent from 3-point range this season.
Steve Nash is averaging 7.6 assists—3.6 fewer per game than during his last four seasons with Phoenix—but the Suns are still fifth in the NBA in scoring at 100.0 points per game. The Thunder, meanwhile, have allowed an average of 108.0 points in their last eight games.
The Suns swept four games with Seattle last season and have won five straight against the Thunder franchise since a 114-90 loss Feb. 14, 2007.