Thunder 114, Suns 96By Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Mon, Dec 31, 2012 10:50 PM EST
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With five players scoring in double figures, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Phoenix Suns 114-96 Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Despite having to get stitches at halftime after getting struck by a inadvertent elbow, Thunder guard Russell 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 (24-6) exploded in the fourth quarter with Westbrook and Kevin Durant scoring at will. Oklahoma City outscored Phoenix 30-18 in the final period as the Suns lost their sixth straight game. Durant ended then 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. Scola paced the Suns (11-21) with 24 points, and Goran Dragic chipped in with 16 points and eight assists. Marcin Gortat posted 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Jared 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 didn't get back on defense because he was complaining to the refs. Despite that, 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. 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. He came back in the second half and wound up playing 33 minutes. NOTES: Entering Monday's games, Oklahoma City ranked second in the league in 3-point field-goal percentage, trailing only San Antonio. The Thunder were shooting hit 40.2 percent from behind the arc. The Suns were last in the league in stopping teams from making 3-pointers, allowing opponents to make 40.4 percent of their attempts. Oklahoma City went just 5-for-15 from long range Monday. ... The Suns have trailed by double digits in 24 games this season. However, no team in the league has played more games decided by three points or fewer. "We have to find a way to finish games," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's making about making one or two plays down the stretch to get over the hump." ... Oklahoma City has played at home on New Year's Eve for five straight years. Coach Scott Brooks has no problem with the scheduling. "I love playing on (holidays)," Brooks said. "It's a great opportunity for our guys to play on Christmas and New Year's Eve. It's kind of like a celebration of the NBA."
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