Durant’s 38 points lead Thunder past Suns
“I think he’ll be one of the all-time great players in the game,” Gentry said. “There’s nothing he can’t do.”
Durant showed off his skills, scoring 38 points, including a key jumper from behind the key with 14.4 seconds left, lifting the Thunder to a 117-113 victory over Phoenix, ending their nine-game losing streak to the Suns.
“Don’t underestimate this team,” Gentry said, even though the Thunder entered the game at 13-14, and the Suns entered 18-10, having lost only once in their previous 20 home games. “Except for being young, they’re a very strong team. The things you love about them, they’re young and energetic.”
The Thunder, the second-youngest team in the NBA, used their youthful legs to outhustle the Suns, especially off the boards, where they enjoyed a 60-46 advantage. The Thunder scored 23 second-chance points to the Suns’ nine off 16 offensive rebounds.
It was the Suns’ first loss at home to a Western Conference team in seven games this season.
For the Thunder, it was their first win over the Suns since Feb. 14, 2007. It also was their 14th victory of the season, a figure they did not reach until Feb. 28 last season in their 59th game.
“Our goal wasn’t to go to the goal (for rebounds) so much because they’re such a good team in transition,” Durant said.
“We just told ourselves to play hard and we would be rewarded. We didn’t let them bust the game open. We got a big win against a playoff team.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks agreed with Durant.
“It was a great win for us,” he said. “We had a lot of guys who stepped up and made a lot of winning basketball plays.”
Gentry was critical of the Suns’ inability to make big plays late.
“I think the difference in the game is that they made all the plays down the stretch and we just didn’t make them,” he said. “We had a couple of opportunities to go get rebounds and we gave up second shots and you can’t do that, especially with a guy like Durant on the floor.”
“We can’t allow the offensive rebounds they managed tonight,” he said. “We’ve got to find a better way to keep them off the offensive boards. I think teams are now saying, ‘OK, we can crash the offensive boards against the Suns,’ and we’ve got to change that mentality and do a better job of that.”
The first half was wild and furious, and showcased the talents of Stoudemire and Durant. Stoudemire got the best of the matchup, outscoring Durant 23-18 and outrebounding him 7-3, but a Durant jumper with 3.8 seconds remaining gave the Thunder a 66-64 lead at the break.
The Thunder, showing no signs of weariness after losing 111-108 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, bolted to a 54-39 lead midway through the second quarter. But with Stoudemire scoring 12 points, the Suns battled back and tied the score 64-64 on a three-point play by Stoudemire with 13.8 seconds left before Durant’s final basket.
Harden, the former Arizona State All-America playing his first professional game in Arizona since joining the pros this season, also was a key factor in the first half for Oklahoma City. He scored nine points, hitting all seven of his free throws. Green chipped with 13.
Nash nearly had a double-double at halftime with 14 points and nine assists, while Frye had 13 points.
The pace was just as frantic in the third quarter, which ended 89-89 following a breakaway basket by Harden with 2.4 seconds to go. Durant opened the period with a pair of 3-pointers, giving the Thunder a 72-66 lead, but again the Suns rallied, as Stoudemire already equaled his season high with 30 points. Both he and Nash also had their fifth consecutive double-doubles by then.
^Notes: Suns guard Leandro Barbosa(notes), out 12 games with a left ankle sprain, is expected to return Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers. … The 21-year-old Durant, who is averaging more than 27 points per game, could join four other players 21 or younger at the end of a season to average 25 or more points. The others were LeBron James(notes), Tracy McGrady(notes), Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Rick Barry. … The Suns have scored at least 27 points in the first quarter of each of their 12 home games, including 30 eight times.