Durant scores 30 as Thunder beats Suns 110-105
Instead, he and coach Scott Brooks saw an opportunity for the Thunder’s bench players to learn a valuable lesson.
And that proved to be the right move for Oklahoma City. Rookie James Harden(notes) scored six of his 11 points in overtime, helping the Thunder salvage a 30-point outing by Durant and win their preseason home opener by beating the Phoenix Suns 110-105 on Monday night.
Amare Stoudemire scored 20 points for the Suns, who twice rallied from double-digit deficits—the second time with backups—and never led until overtime. Phoenix was up 103-100 before the Thunder closed the game on a 10-2 run. D.J. White(notes) put Oklahoma City ahead for good at 104-103 with a jumper with 2:55 left and Michael Harris followed with a three-point play.
“It was a great opportunity for our guys to get fourth quarter, valuable minutes,” Brooks said. “I thought our guys played extremely well for three-and-a-half quarters. … But that’s part of it. We have to learn how to do a better job closing out games. But a lot of those guys had never been in the situation that they had to close out an NBA game. No matter what you tell them, no matter what you work on in practice, you have to be able to do it in a game.”
Durant went 5 of 5 from 3-point range as the Thunder finished 9 of 17 from behind the arc.
Jeff Green(notes) scored 15 points and Russell Westbrook(notes) just missed a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for Oklahoma City. Through three preseason games, Westbrook has 27 assists and five turnovers.
“They got a good young team,” Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said of the Thunder. “I think when they see their young players that they’ve got to be happy with them. Westbrook has come a long way from the standpoint of running the team, running the offense. Kevin Durant is probably a top-five player in this league.”
Phoenix rallied from a 16-point first-quarter deficit to tie the game early in the third quarter and missed a chance to go ahead when Stoudemire muffed a dunk. Green hit two 3-pointers to put Oklahoma City back ahead.
Thanks to Durant’s 19 third-quarter points, the Thunder built its lead to 90-73 by the end of the quarter and was up 97-77 with 8:16 left. But Oklahoma City managed only one more basket and didn’t score in the final 3:38 of regulation.
With both teams using mostly subs, Phoenix tied the game at 99 on a driving layup by Carlos Powell(notes) with 30.6 seconds left. Phoenix’s Earl Clark(notes), then Oklahoma City’s Shaun Livingston(notes) both missed shots in the final seconds of regulation.
Durant said watching Phoenix rally while he was on the bench was nerve-wracking, “but it was good for us, for the guys that work hard and don’t get to play as much, to go through a situation like that. It was also good for me. Maybe I’ve fouled out or maybe it’s a situation where I’ve got to cheer my team on from the bench. … We had some slipups at the end but overall it was a good game for us.”
Thabo Sefolosha(notes) scored 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting in his preseason debut for Oklahoma City. Sefolosha sustained a mild concussion during a practice on Oct. 5 and didn’t play in the Thunder’s first two preseason games, road losses to Memphis and New Orleans.
He started quickly Monday, scoring two baskets and assisting on another as Oklahoma City scored the first 11 points. His 3-pointer seven minutes into the game gave the Thunder a 22-6 lead. The Suns closed to 53-47 by halftime. Stoudemire scored the first six points of the second half to tie the game before missing the dunk.
Phoenix fell to 1-2 in exhibitions, having beaten Partizan Belgrade and lost to Golden State. The Suns played without center Robin Lopez(notes), who is out for six to eight weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot during an intrasquad scrimmage.
Jared Dudley(notes) was the only other double-digit scorer for Phoenix, finishing with 12 points. Steve Nash(notes) had nine points and seven assists in a little more than 25 minutes but joined most of the Suns’ regulars on the bench in the fourth quarter and overtime.
NOTES: Taylor Griffin(notes), who played at Oklahoma the last four seasons and is from Oklahoma City, started for the Suns and received a loud ovation from the Ford Center crowd of 15,223. He scored four points in 18 minutes of action. … Oklahoma City’s starting center, Nenad Krstic(notes), missed the game because of illness. Veteran Etan Thomas(notes) started in Krstic’s place. …. Miss America 2009 Katie Stam sang the national anthem before the game. … Michael Henderson, one of two NBA replacement officials with previous league experience, was on the three-man crew.