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Westbrook's 33 points saves weary Thunder

The SportsXchange

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Russell Westbrook celebrated his 24th birthday with a late-game flourish.

Westbrook scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter, lifting the weary Oklahoma City Thunder to a 92-90 victory over the winless Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills Monday night.

Playing for the fourth time in five nights, the Thunder wiped out an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit and extended its winning streak to five games. Oklahoma City has won eight straight over the Pistons.

"Early on, he missed a few easy ones but he kept going," said Kevin Durant, who had 26 points. "His pace was way better in the second half and he kept us in the game. In the fourth quarter, he opened it up for me to get some points and we got a good win."

Oklahoma City shot just 37 percent for the game but made all 18 of its free throws in the fourth.

"There's a lot of games where we don't play well, but there's very few where we don't play hard," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Tonight, there were so many opportunities for us to just say, 'It wasn't our night.' Four in five nights in three different cities, we didn't use those as excuses and we never will. Our guys did a good job of staying with it."

Rodney Stuckey had 19 points and Greg Monroe chipped in 17 for Detroit, which fell to 0-8, the worst start in franchise history. The Pistons' previous worst opening was seven consecutive losses.

The Pistons extended a six-point halftime lead to 64-51 by opening the second half with a 13-6 spurt. Monroe finished off the run with a layup, and the Thunder never got closer than eight the rest of the third quarter. A Will Bynum layup in the final minute of the period made it 73-62.

Detroit's advantage evaporated quickly. Oklahoma City (6-2) opened the fourth quarter with 13 unanswered points, including nine free throws. Westbrook scored the last six points in that stretch, including a layup with 8:10 remaining to put his team in front.

Brooks used a smaller lineup in the late going to improve the defense, and Westbrook did the rest.

"He had a good floor game," Brooks said. "He was competing and getting people involved. I thought he took about three or four shots too many in the first half but overall, his effort was good."

Thabo Sefolosha's two free throws with 1:20 remaining gave the Thunder the lead for good at 86-85. Durant followed with a runner after a Monroe turnover. Brandon Knight then missed a potential tying three-pointer, and Westbrook clinched the Thunder's win with two free throws.

"We understand the firepower they have, but now we have to understand we need to come with that same mindset playing against these other teams," Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince said. "This loss is tough to swallow because our guys put out a great effort for a long period of time."

The idle Washington Wizards (0-5) are the only other team without a victory.

It's a familiar experience for Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, who was fired as New Jersey's coach in 2009 after the Nets lost their first 16 games. The Nets' season-opening streak of futility lasted 18 games, an NBA record.

"I know, having been through it, when you're struggling to win a game, the bottom line is 'Let's compete like that every night,'" Frank said. "If we compete like that every night, we'll get our fair share of wins."

Detroit's starting lineup remained the same, despite the team's struggles.

Frank's reserves were instrumental in building a 51-45 halftime lead. The second unit produced a 19-4 run early in the second quarter, giving the Pistons a 44-32 advantage.

Rookie center Andre Drummond, who produced 22 points and eight rebounds in a loss at Oklahoma City last week, had four points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in an energetic nine-minute stint during the first half Monday. Another rookie, forward Kyle Singler, scored six points in nine first-half minutes.

The Thunder cut the deficit in half before heading to the locker room, lifted by five unanswered points from forward Serge Ibaka during a 13-3 outburst. Westbrook had 15 first-half points.

NOTES: Detroit had two previous 0-7 starts in franchise history, in 1962-63 and in 1980-81. ... Brooks doesn't believe the Los Angeles Lakers' decision to hire Mike D'Antoni as head coach will impact his team's drive to remain Western Conference champion. "That doesn't change how we look at things at all," he said. "We focus on our team, our growth, our development and how we play. It has no bearing on us moving forward." ... Prince took sole possession of eighth place on the franchise scoring list with a first-quarter layup, surpassing Grant Hill (9,393 points). ... Detroit forward Corey Maggette, who hasn't played this season because of a left calf strain, could return to practice this week.
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