Oklahoma City sends Suns to sixth straight lossBy Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Mon, Dec 31, 2012 11:50 PM EST
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With players such as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder never has to worry about trying to manufacture buckets late in games. The Phoenix Suns are not able to say the same thing. In their 114-96 loss to the Thunder Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Suns couldn't find a go-to play to counter the duo of Westbrook and Durant when they needed it the most. "It's a combination of we can't get stops and we can't score," Phoenix's Jared Dudley said. "They know exactly how they want to score, which plays they are going to run. We are still searching. In crunch time, they have two go-to guys, we are still trying to find one." Oklahoma City (24-6) enters the New Year with the second-best start in the franchises history. Only the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics had a better record after 30 games. "It was a great year for us as an organization and as a team," Westbrook said. "I'm proud to be part of this team with the group of guys that we have leading us into 2013. I'm looking forward to some good things." Despite having to get stitches at halftime after getting struck in the head by a inadvertent elbow, Westbrook finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. The Suns kept the game close for three quarters behind the strong play of Jermaine O'Neal and Luis Scola. However, the Thunder exploded in the fourth quarter with Westbrook and Durant scoring at will. Oklahoma City outscored Phoenix 30-18 in the final period as the Suns lost their sixth straight game. "We don't have that one or two guys we can give the ball and try to create at the end of the game," Phoenix's Marcin Gortat said. "We are just going with the flow of the game. Whoever is on fire." Durant ended the night with 30 points on 11-for-24 shooting. Serge Ibaka added 16 points and seven rebounds for Oklahoma City, Thabo Sefolosha scored 14 points, and Nick Collison came off the bench to contribute 10 points and nine rebounds. "Well, Nick does so many great things for us," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I say it time and time again. He's a glue guy. He just does all the little things that are important to winning basketball games. He makes a ton of winning basketball plays." Scola paced the Suns (11-21) with 24 points, and Goran Dragic chipped in with 16 points and eight assists. Gortat posted 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Dudley was held to seven points on 2-for-7 shooting. The Suns' P.J. Tucker began the night crowding Durant every time the Thunder star got the ball. Tucker forced the three-time scoring champion to try to beat him off the dribble rather than giving up uncontested jump shots. When Durant didn't get the foul calls, he showed his frustration, and sometimes he didn't get back on defense because he was complaining to the refs. Nonetheless, Oklahoma City led 32-28 after the first quarter. O'Neal helped keep the Suns in the game in the second quarter. The 16-year veteran had eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in the period. The Thunder held a 54-53 halftime lead, b but Oklahoma City got a scare late in the half when Scola came down for a rebound and his elbow crashed into Westbrook's face. No foul was called, but blood gushed from a cut around Westbrook's eye. Westbrook had to be taken into the locker room, and he didn't return the rest of the first half. With Westbrook on the bench, Oklahoma City went on a 12-0 run to start the third quarter. It was punctuated by a Sefolosha fastbreak dunk that forced Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry to call a timeout. "It's just all about stops," the Thunder's Kevin Martin said. "We know we're going to score. Tonight was just about stops. Once we got our stops and rebounded and got in our transition game, we were pretty tough to stop."
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