Durant pours in 41 as Thunder win 12th straight

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Kevin Durant scored a season-high 41 points Wednesday, but Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn't even know it.

"I've seen it so many times," Brooks said after the Thunder beat the Atlanta Hawks 100-92 for their 12th consecutive victory. "When he gets hot, it's hard to turn him off. I didn't realize he had 41, but I very rarely look at guys' individual scores."

The Thunder's winning streak is the team's longest since it moved to Oklahoma City.

"I just know we're playing good basketball right now." Brooks said. "We aren't putting ourselves in position to beat ourselves.

"We're playing solid. We take pride in being a two-way team. We don't want to just be a scoring team, we don't want to just be a defensive team. We want to use both of our abilities.

Durant, who also grabbed 13 rebounds, credited teammate Russell Westbrook's 21 first-half points for opening up the second-half opportunities for him. Westbrook finished with 27 and added 11 assists for the Thunder (21-4).

"I heard their assistant coach at halftime on the big screen say they would rather West take the jump shot than get in the paint," Durant said. "He's very good at both, and I think he utilized that in the first half, got us a nice little lead.

"I took some questionable (shots), but my teammates wanted me to do it."

Josh Smith led the Hawks (15-8) with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Jeff Teague added 19 points for Atlanta, which shot 38.3 percent. Hawks center Al Horford contributed 13 points and six rebounds.

The Thunder led from the 1:03 mark in the first quarter. The Hawks, down as many 17 points and trailing by double digits for a large portion of the game, fought back to cut the deficit to 73-69 with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter before their rally sputtered.

"I thought in the second quarter they just created too much separation," Horford said. "Against a team like this, we can't have lapses that big."

Durant and Westbrook scored all of Oklahoma City's points during a 27-11 run that pushed the advantage back to 90-80.

"They're a very talented team," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "Durant is as good as there is in this league. Russell Westbrook is one of the top point guards in this league. You really have to be on the money with your coverage on them, and you also make sure you have backup coverage."

Horford added, "We fought. We played hard. We just couldn't crack into tying the game or taking the lead."

NOTES: Drew said before the game that he "played some guys probably too many minutes last night" in the overtime win over the Wizards, so he was going to have to rely on his bench Wednesday night. In the absence of Devin Harris, who left the Wizards game in the first half with a sore left foot and was not available against the Thunder, Drew said he expected rookie John Jenkins to play some minutes. "We always keep a little birdie on his shoulder, "Stay ready, stay ready," Drew said. He considered going to Jenkins last night but went with the experience of DeShawn Stevenson instead. ... Drew had not used Stevenson in back-to-back games because of his knees, but he was able to hold him to 13 minutes against the Wizards, which allowed him to play against the Thunder. Stevenson went scoreless and grabbed five rebounds in 21 minutes Wednesday. ... Hawks guard Anthony Morrow, who missed two games with some inflammation in his lower back, was cleared to play 20 minutes before tip-off. He scored eight points in 11 minutes. ... The Thunder began a stretch of 15 of their next 21 games on the road, which Brooks values as a bonding experience. When the team is at home, he said, guys don't really want to be spending any extra time talking to their coaches or to each other; they'd prefer to be with their families. ... Brooks says his players are becoming savvy veterans even though they're still young. Asked about the ongoing value of playoff experience, he said, "You can't get it until you get it. You can talk about it but you have to live it before you can understand the importance of every possession in a playoff game."
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