Tim Brown:

Thunder shut down Wizards in second half

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Playing shorthanded against one of the best teams in the NBA is not what Washington wanted to do. But after beating Oklahoma City earlier in the season under the same circumstances, it was hoping for a repeat performance.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, the Thunder had a different outcome in mind and rolled over Washington 103-80 Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The win was the third in a row for the Thunder and sixth in their last eight games as they continue to battle San Antonio for the top spot in the West Conference. Oklahoma City stayed a game and a half behind the Spurs.

"Right now, I know we love to win basketball games," Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant said. "But it's about bettering our habits. There (are) 10 games left and we want to continue playing solid defense, moving the ball on offense and going out there wreaking havoc."

The injury-ravaged Wizards (26-45) suffered their third defeat in the past nine outings. After a competitive first half, they fell apart on both ends of the court in the second half. Oklahoma City held the Wizards to 35 second-half points.

"I was as proud of these guys tonight as I was the last game against Memphis," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "It's not about wins and losses. It's about how you play. We (went) out tonight with eight guys and a lot of our key guys down; it was battle. They fought their hearts out."

John Wall paced Washington with 17 points and 12 assists. However, he shot a paltry 3-for-18 from the field. Garrett Temple added 13 points while Cartier Martin chipped in 12 off the bench.

Washington shot 32 percent from the field and connected on only five 3-pointers.

"When you don't have to take the ball out of the net, we get a chance to use our athleticism and get out in transition," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We are really good; we're fast. Then we put pressure on defense."

Oklahoma City (53-19) got 21 points from Russell Westbrook and 18 from Kevin Durant, who shot 4-for-10 from the field. Kevin Martin had 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc.

Serge Ibaka led the defensive charge with four blocked shots as the Thunder held their opponent under 90 points for the fourth straight contest.

"We are doing a much better job on the ball," Brooks said. "Doing a much better job of keeping the ball out of the paint. Our bigs are doing a fantastic job of changing, altering and blocking shots. Serge is on a nice defensive rhythm right now with his shot blocking."

The point guard matchup between Westbrook and Wall had to wait after Westbrook picked up two fouls in the first three minutes. He went to the bench for the rest of first quarter, leaving Wall to try to have his way with reserve Reggie Jackson.

However, it was the entire Oklahoma City squad that had a hard time containing Wall.

The Thunder were called for eight fouls in the first period, five while guarding Wall. That included Durant fouling Wall on a desperation 3-pointer right before the end of the first quarter. Wall's free throws cut the Thunder lead to 29-23 heading into the second period.

When Wall wasn't on the floor, the rest of the Wizards had a difficult time creating their own shots. They were able to stay in the contest because Emeka Okafor hustled on the offensive boards. He didn't pull down the rebounds but kept coming up with tap-outs that led to points for Washington.

Yet, Durant, Martin and Westbrook did just enough to give Oklahoma City a 53-45 halftime advantage.

"Coming into the locker room, we thought we had a good shot," Temple said. "We had played well, just hadn't made shots and were only down by eight to OKC at their home. We felt like we had a good shot if we came out and played similar defense and just knocked down shots."

The Thunder went on a 17-9 run to start the third quarter. Thabo Sefolosha led the charge with eight quick points.

The Wizards' offensive struggles caught up to them in the second half. Wall, who scored 47 the game before, never found the same shooting stroke. He did most of his damage from the charity stripe.

But the Wizards just didn't have the horses to contend for a full game.

"I hope some troops are coming back," Wittman said. "I told them, 'Hang in there, guys. The troops are on their way, hopefully.'"

NOTES: According to the Oklahoman, since the start of the 2010-11 season, the year Westbrook became an All-Star, Westbrook is 18-18 in head-to-head matchups against Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving and Wall. He has a losing record against only Parker (2-6) and Irving (1-2). "It can't be a personal matchup, but it has to be a pride matchup," Brooks said. "That's how the game works." ... Washington rookie Bradley Beal missed his 10th game out of the last 13 with a nagging sprained ankle. He is not expected back until next week. Beal was averaging 14.2 points a night before the injury. The Wizards were without seven players due to injury or illness: Beal, Leandro Barbosa, Trevor Ariza, Nene, A.J. Price, Martell Webster and Jason Collins. ... Even though he's busy coaching the Wizards, Wittman still keeps an eye on his alma mater, Indiana. He was part of the 1981 NCAA championship team, and he's looking for this year's squad to add another title. "I don't care who they play; just win and advance," Wittman said. "At this point in time, that's all you want to do. Doesn't matter if it's ugly; all you want to do is win.". ... As soon as the game ended, both the Washington and Oklahoma City locker rooms turned their attention to the Miami and Chicago game. Despite losing by 23 points, the Wizards let out a cheer when the Heat fell. Brooks admitted he was late to the postgame press conference because he wanted to watch the final two minutes. "Miami's run was incredible," Brooks said. "You have to win so many different ways to get a few wins in a row, let alone 27. But it was a great run. But take your hats off to Chicago. They finally broke it."

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