Westbrook, Harden push Thunder past Suns in OTBy JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Mar 6, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—With NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant(notes) struggling through one of the worst shooting nights of his career, the Oklahoma City Thunder turned to two of their other rising young stars to carry the load.
“Everyone did a great job of picking me up and filling in for me in the point area, or the scoring area,” Durant said. “It was a great win. We grinded that one out against a tough team to guard.”
Durant made a season-low three baskets on 14 attempts and scored 18 points, 11 of them on free throws. At 21 percent, it was his least accurate shooting performance since he went 3 for 20 in a loss to Portland on Nov. 1, 2009. The only other four times he shot less than 20 percent came during his rookie season in Seattle.
“I didn’t start the way I wanted to and I didn’t shoot the ball the way I wanted to, but I tried to stick with it and play defense and if a shot came my way take it and be aggressive still,” said Durant, who missed his first five shots and his last six.
Vince Carter(notes) led Phoenix with 29 points but missed two of three free throws with the chance to put the Suns ahead with 17.4 seconds left. Steve Nash(notes) missed a potential tying 3-pointer with about 10 seconds left, and the Thunder were able to close it out from the foul line.
Nash had 11 points and 14 assists, moving past Isiah Thomas for sixth place on the NBA’s career assists list. He now has 9,066 and trails only John Stockton, Jason Kidd(notes), Mark Jackson, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
“Even when we got down, I thought we did a good job of fighting back. We just could not make that play, that one play that could help us get over the hump,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said.
The Thunder trailed most of regulation, then allowed Phoenix to rally back from a seven-point deficit in the final 3 minutes to tie it at 109. Oklahoma City then scored the first five points of overtime before giving up back-to-back 3-pointers by Jared Dudley(notes) and Carter to fall behind again.
Harden answered with a three-point play off a fast-break dunk to put Oklahoma City ahead 116-115 with 34 seconds left in overtime and the Thunder were able to protect that lead when Carter came up empty at the foul line.
“I feel for him because we would have never been in that position if he hadn’t played the way he played,” Gentry said. “It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get them to go in, but you look at his line and one of the reasons that we were in that position was because of the way that he played.”
Phoenix lost for just the second time in its last eight road games and finished its longest road trip of the season 4-2. The Suns also lost Channing Frye(notes)—who had hit two game-winning shots on the trip—to a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter after he had scored 11 points and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds.
“He’s the one guy that we really can’t afford to lose,” Gentry said. “He’s been great for us, and with spacing and some things like that, hopefully it’s going to be something that’s short term.”
Serge Ibaka(notes) added 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Oklahoma City, which has followed a three-game losing streak with three wins in a row. The Thunder traded two starters away to Boston to get Kendrick Perkins(notes) and Nate Robinson(notes), who are both out with injuries.
“You’re getting other guys involved who are big offensive threats that haven’t really had a chance to exploit it until now,” Daequan Cook(notes) said. “There’s just a lot of guys right now that’s making a lot of great plays and decisions for us.”
Oklahoma City also made up for it with a hefty advantage at the free-throw line, making 37 of 47 while Phoenix was 8-for-14. Durant, Westbrook and Harden were a combined 32 for 39.
The Thunder trailed most of the way before ripping off a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter to go up 102-95 after Nick Collison’s(notes) two-handed jam with 6:44 to play. Cook started the spurt with a 3-pointer from the right side and Harden added a two-handed slam off an alley-oop from Westbrook.
Frye then headed off slumped over with 6:28 remaining, and a Thunder team doctor attended to him in a hallway near the court. He came back to the bench a few minutes later but didn’t re-enter the game.
“I’ve just got to make sure I take care of it. I hate not playing,” Frye said. “No matter what I do, I’m going to try to be out there. It’s super sore right now but for me it’s more about the team and I’m just mad I couldn’t go out there and help them in that situation.”
Even without him, Phoenix mounted a rally while Oklahoma City missed a series of 3-pointers.
Nash got inside for a layup and Gortat made a hook shot and a layup to get the Suns within 107-106 with 1:41 left in regulation. Westbrook made a pair of free throws to make it a three-point lead with 11.6 seconds left after Nash turned the ball over in a trap by Westbrook and Ibaka, but the Suns made tying it up look easy.
Carter caught a crosscourt inbounds pass from Grant Hill(notes) on the right wing and drilled a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left to tie it at 109. Durant missed a fallaway jumper from just inside the 3-point line on the right wing as the game went to overtime.
Notes: Nash moved ahead of Thomas with a crosscourt pass to Carter for a 3-pointer in the final 2 minutes of the second quarter, his seventh of eight first-half assists. … Eight of the Suns’ players and coach Alvin Gentry joined Grant Hill in supporting former Duke teammate Jeff Capel at Oklahoma’s rivalry game against Oklahoma State on Saturday. “I’ve been there a lot. I’ve been torched by Wayman (Tisdale),” Gentry said. “I was an assistant in the Big Eight. To me, it’s still the Big Eight. It’ll always be the Big Eight. I will never call it the Big 12, I don’t care what.” Gentry was an assistant at Kansas and then at Colorado. “I’ve got nightmares about Lloyd Noble (Center),” he said. “I was at Colorado also, when we weren’t very good and we had to go in there and play, and Billy Tubbs wasn’t exactly a guy that tried to hold the score down either.”