Sloppy Nets No Match For Durant, Thunder
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are forgetting what a losing streak feels like.
Durant scored 27 points before taking the fourth quarter off and the Thunder bounced back from their latest loss by rolling past the error-prone New Jersey Nets 114-93 on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma City forced a season-high 23 turnovers and won for the 10th straight time immediately following a loss.
“We’re trying to hang our hats on being a team that bounces back very quickly,” Durant said. “After that tough, tough loss against Dallas (on Monday night), tonight we had a tough test against a team that scores a lot of points and has got a lot of weapons.”
The Thunder lost their third and fourth games of the season against the Jazz and the Clippers but haven’t lost back-to-back games since then while running their record to 22-11.
“I like the fact that if we do lose a game, we come back with some toughness,” coach Scott Brooks said. “Our guys have a lot of pride. I like the fact that they compete every night. We’re not going to win every game, but our guys try their best.”
Russell Westbrook added 17 points and seven assists through the first three quarters as all 12 players scored for Oklahoma City. Reserve James Harden had 11 points to reach double figures for the ninth straight game, and Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison added 10 apiece.
Oklahoma City had a season-high 31 assists and piled up 23 points off of the Nets’ turnovers.
“We did a good job of causing turnovers and I think that we got a lot of deflections that led to some easy baskets for us. That kind of was the game for us tonight,” Durant said.
“Everybody chipped in on the defensive end and got it going.”
Devin Harris and Brook Lopez each scored 19 points to lead New Jersey, which has lost its past three games by 51 points.
“We’re not in good rhythm right now and we’re going to have to break out of it here sometime soon,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said.
In the second and third quarters combined, New Jersey had only five assists and 16 turnovers to fall hopelessly behind.
“We have guys that are open from time to time, and the ball’s not getting there at the proper time. And then when it gets there, the passes aren’t very good,” Johnson said.
Oklahoma City’s bench capitalized to put together a 12-2 run that put the Thunder ahead to stay. Harden hit a 3-pointer to finish the first quarter and also drove for a layup in the stretch, and Jeff Green’s two-handed dunk of an Eric Maynor alley-oop made it 33-26.
“That’s what we need every game,” Durant said. “They came in and set the tempo early in the second quarter, got us going and got us the lead back and we were able to cruise on from there.”
Durant returned from his first rest of the game and had a two-handed, fast-break dunk and a 3-pointer in a burst of eight straight points that pushed Oklahoma City’s edge to 45-31 with 5:26 left before halftime. After that, the Nets never were closer than nine points.
Serge Ibaka and Harden had bookend dunks on a string of nine straight points in the fourth that bumped the lead up to 100-75 with 7:08 to play. Soon after, the few remaining starters were off the floor for both teams in a game nowhere near as competitive as a triple-overtime thriller won by the Thunder in New Jersey on Dec. 1.
“This is a cycle of the season with our young team. We’re in a bad cycle defensively,” Johnson said. “The turnovers don’t help our defense at all. We think we’re pretty good when we get in the half court and get our defense set, but we’re not as good when we’re turning the ball over.”
NOTES: The Thunder provided free tickets to 250 Army privates from Fort Sill who were unable to go home for the holidays from the Lawton post. Another 50 soldiers were given tickets to Oklahoma City’s game last week against Phoenix. … Harden and New Jersey’s Sasha Vujacic were called for a double technical foul with 9:54 left in the game after a scrum for the ball led to a jump ball. … Johnson said New Jersey’s “only bright spot” was rookie Ben Uzoh, an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa. He tied his career high with six points and had a career-best five assists in the fourth quarter. His former athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, attended the game.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)