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Thunder keeps Pistons winless

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- When a team is looking for its first win of the season, it needs a lot of things to go right. One of those is for its opponent to come out flat and disinterested.

The Detroit Pistons were not that lucky Friday when they took on the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder played down to its competition once already this year. It was not going to let it happen again. It defeated the Pistons 105-94 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The loss dropped Detroit to 0-6 on the season, which is not a place any coach wants to see his team, but Lawrence Frank like the fight his team showed.

"Obviously when you lose, it's a loss," Frank said. "I thought the effort our guys gave was tremendous. Defensive effort was super."

Before the game, Frank wanted to see how his team responded in the moment of truth. He wanted to see what it would do if it was down by six with under 6 minutes left in the game against one of the heavyweight teams in the NBA.

Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Thunder (4-2) didn't let them get to that moment. Holding a five-point lead to start the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City pushed it into double digits before the 6-minute mark rolled around. It outscored Detroit 31-25 in the period.

"The effort our guys gave was tremendous," Frank said. "The game came down to the second and fourth quarters in a sense. Turnovers for us, our inability to finish at the rim at crucial times."

Serge Ibaka scored a career high 25 points to lead the Thunder. His previous high was 22.

Kevin Durant had 13 rebounds and 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. But more importantly, he had only two turnovers, three below his season average.

However, Durant was not happy with the team's performance, especially after being outrebounded 41-38.

"It could be a lot better," Durant said. "I'm never satisfied. It's a long season and an up and down season. I know. But we can do better. We have to find a way to do for 48 minutes as far as the energy is concerned. That starts with me. I have to be better. That goes down the line. If I come in with a great mindset, then hopefully the team follows."

Andre Drummond paced Detroit with 22 points and pulled down five rebounds. Tayshaun Prince chipped in with 16 points in the loss.

"Andre's performance isn't surprising," Detroit's Greg Monroe said. "He did what he was supposed to do. He let everything come to him. He didn't force anything. He was on the boards. I'm not surprised at all. That's what he's supposed to do."

However, it was Oklahoma City which got off to the slow start. The only person to score for the Thunder in the first 5 minutes of the game was Ibaka. Yet, it only trailed 6-4 because the Pistons were unable to take advantage of Oklahoma City's horrendous shooting.

Detroit took an early lead as it got balanced scoring from Prince, Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey. It held a 19-18 lead after one quarter of action.

But Eric Maynor and Kevin Martin both came off the bench hitting jumpers from all over the court for the Thunder. They combined for 18 of the team's first 36 points to push Oklahoma City back into the lead.

Maynor was especially hot as he connected for two 3-pointers and was 4 of 4 from the field in the half. But he needed to be on fire with Russell Westbrook's shooting woes continuing. He started the game 0 of 5 and ended the half with 2 points, but the Thunder led 49-42 at halftime.

"He was phenomenal," Durant said of Maynor. "Getting his legs back under him. He's been out for a year. He's getting his wind back. He was really good for us controlling the game and hitting shots and being aggressive. That's what we needed."

The Pistons found their legs in the third period. Stuckey, Drummond and Brandon Knight joined Prince in making a run at the Thunder. They closed the gap to five points and got Oklahoma City out of its game. But the Thunder restored order in the fourth and went on to earn its third straight win.

"Our guys showed great resolve to," Frank said. "When it looked like it was slipping away, our guys continued to fight. There are some things we can build on if we continue to have that same attitude."

Notes: When the Thunder took the court, it unveiled for the first time its navy blue alternate uniform. Oklahoma City will only wear the new uniforms twice at home due to NBA rules. The next time home fans see the new uniforms in person is New Year's Eve when the Phoenix Suns come to town. ... Detroit entered Friday night last in the NBA in rebounding at 35.2 per game. It's a stat that has Frank searching for answers. "I know we have enough to do a whole lot better than what we are doing," he said. "It's almost like Groundhog Day from last year. Our rebounding is curious because we put such emphasis on blocking out and rebounding with five guys, that to be so poor is disturbing." ... The Pistons' Corey Maggette's status is day-to-day. The 13-year veteran has been sidelined since injuring himself three weeks ago during a preseason game against the Miami Heat. ... Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet sat out Friday's game after rolling his ankle against Chicago Thursday. His spot in the lineup was taken by Oklahoma City native Daniel Orton, who dressed out for the first time this season. ... Turnovers have been the biggest issue with the Thunder through the first weeks of the NBA season. In its first five games, it gave the ball away 92 times at 18.4 per outing. That's fourth most in the league. The biggest culprit for Oklahoma City is Kevin Durant, who is averaging 5.2, which leads all players. Former Thunder player James Harden is second at 5.0. "The last couple of games have been really sloppy," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Turnovers obviously have plagued us last year during the regular season and this early part. It's something we have to continue to work on and try to fix. We just have to cut the turnovers out." ... Midway through the first quarter, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith showed up courtside. As soon as he sat down, the Thunder began playing samples of his music over the loudspeakers.
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