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Thunder 97, Suns 69

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- On Friday in Oklahoma City, the Thunder throttled the Phoenix Suns with their high-octane offense. In Sunday's rematch, the Thunder showed their defense can tie a team in knots just as well.

Russell Westbrook scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, and Thabo Sefolosha added 15 of his 20 from behind the 3-point arc as the Thunder beat the Suns for the 10th straight time in convincing fashion Sunday, 97-69 at US Airways Center.

The Thunder (39-12) trail the San Antonio Spurs, who also won Sunday, by a half-game in the race for the best record in the NBA. They put up a season-high point total in a 127-96 rout of the Suns on Thursday, and nearly held the Suns to a franchise-record-low total Sunday.

The Suns (17-35) flirted with their mark for fewest points in a game -- a 68-point effort against the old Kansas City Kings in 1981 -- until the final seconds. Wesley Johnson slammed home an offensive rebound with 7.8 seconds remaining to avoid an inglorious end to a very long night.

Phoenix made only 30 of 91 shots (33 percent) and committed 23 turnovers. The Suns scored 16, 18 and 14 points in the first three quarters and didn't have a double-figure scorer heading to the fourth.

Markeiff Morris, who led the Suns with 12 points and was the only Sun in double figures, finally got to 10 points on a 3-pointer with 5:48 left in the game, about two minutes after Phoenix broke the 50-point mark.

The Thunder know about double figures. Sunday win was their 27th double-digit win of the season -- including all four games in a season sweep of the Suns.

Kevin Durant scored 18 points, but he was barely needed as the Thunder toyed with the Suns for about 20 minutes before taking off with a 16-2 run to end the first half. Oklahoma City held Phoenix to 30 percent shooting in the first half, and the Suns never recovered. The Suns took 49 shots in the first half and missed 34 of them, with Michael Beasley going 2-for-10 and P.J. Tucker and Luis Scola shooting a combined 4-for-14.

Tucker finished with eight points for the Suns, who have lost seven of the last nine and are now tied for the second-worst record in franchise history after 52 games.

The Suns missed their first seven shots from the floor and quickly fell behind 10-2 before finding their footing with a 9-2 run. However, the Thunder closed out the first quarter with an 8-0 run. A trio of 3-pointer bombs from Sefolosha from the same corner -- the last one to open the second quarter -- gave Oklahoma City 11 straight points and a 30-16 lead.

The second quarter was more of the same. The Suns whittled a double-digit lead to a manageable margin, only to watch the Thunder zoom away just before the half.

Phoenix cut the 14-point deficit to 35-32 on a Tucker layup with 4:12 left. But Sefolosha followed a Westbrook dunk with another 3-pointer to begin a 16-2 run to end the half. Westbrook capped the run with a 27-foot bomb to beat the halftime horn, and Oklahoma City had a 51-34 lead.

NOTES: Thunder guard Kevin Martin sat out due to flu-like symptoms. Martin had 16 points in Friday's win over the Suns in Oklahoma City, but coach Scott Brooks saw the illness as an opportunity. "Everybody is going to have to step up. (Martin's) been a big part of our success, coming off the bench and giving us some scoring and leadership. (DeAndre) Liggins is going to have an opportunity, Thabo (Sefolosha) might play more minutes. Who knows? We have a few guys who can step in and do the job." ... Goran Dragic led the Suns in points (14.3), assists (6.4), steals (1.41) and free-throw attempts (199) entering Sunday's game. The only other player to lead his team in all those categories is LeBron James. Dragic had six points, four rebounds and four assists against the Thunder. ... Dragic attempted his 200th free throw of the season Sunday, the first Suns guard since Steve Nash (2005-06) with that many free throws this early in a season. ... How times have changed. The Suns beat the Thunder nine straight times from 2007-09, a span during which the Suns averaged 50.5 wins and the Thunder 21.5.

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