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Thunder hold off Jazz to sweep three-game homestand

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The Canadian Press
11/30/2012 10:43:43 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- After two straight cakewalks to start their homestand, the Oklahoma City Thunder finally got some fourth-quarter resistance against the Utah Jazz.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook still found a way to close out a perfect stretch at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Durant scored 25 points, Westbrook made a two-pronged bid for his sixth career triple-double and the Thunder beat the Jazz 106-94 on Friday night.

Oklahoma City won all three games by double digits and made a bid to win three in a row by at least 20 points for the first time in 25 years before a late charge by the Jazz.

"Definitely a good homestand leading to the road," Westbrook said. "We're playing good basketball right now. Everybody's moving the ball, feeling good and hopefully we can continue it."

Westbrook ended up with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals. Kevin Martin scored 19 points for the Thunder.

Enes Kanter scored a career-high 18 points, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter as Utah pulled within five before Oklahoma City closed it out.

Westbrook came up with two of his steals -- and one of his eight turnovers -- during a wild, momentum-changing stretch midway through the fourth quarter.

After his two free throws stretched Oklahoma City's lead to 90-83, Westbrook swiped the ball, only for Earl Watson to steal it back, and then for Westbrook to race back up the court to get it again.

He fired a pass ahead to Kendrick Perkins, who flipped it to Durant for a two-handed slam that got the sellout crowd roaring again and the Thunder back on the path to victory.

"He makes big plays. It's not always just making a pass or scoring," Durant said. "He makes big plays that change the game, and that was a huge play for us."

Westbrook was one shy of his career high in steals and two off his best rebounding total. Serge Ibaka added 12 points and seven blocks for Oklahoma City, and Perkins also scored 12.

Al Jefferson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who were without starting forward Marvin Williams due to concussion symptoms. The Jazz had a three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the second time in seven games.

"I don't feel bad at all about this loss," Jefferson said. "I think we did a great job against all odds."

The Thunder have won six in a row at home and make a brief, two-game road swing before coming right back for five in a row in Oklahoma City.

"Every day is important for us to get better," Durant said. "I think we're having a good stretch right now."

The league's highest-scoring team, Oklahoma City locked down on defence to move ahead for good in the second quarter. The Thunder limited Utah to 30 per cent shooting in the period while making 63 per cent of their shots and led 54-42 at halftime.

The lead got as big as 81-63 when Martin followed Nick Collison's three-point play with a jumper from the right wing with 1:47 left in the third quarter.

This one wasn't destined for a blowout like the first two games of the homestand, though. Oklahoma City had handed Charlotte its worst loss in franchise history in a 114-69 rout on Monday night, taking a 40-point halftime lead with one of the most dominant first halves in NBA history.

The Thunder then kept Houston's James Harden from hitting a shot in the first half Wednesday night while building a double-digit lead they'd never relinquish.

The Jazz became Oklahoma City's first opponent on the homestand to be within single digits in the second half, roaring back with a 20-7 run after coach Tyrone Corbin went to Watson to run the show late in the third quarter.

Watson lobbed to Gordon Hayward for an alley-oop dunk to finish the period, and the Jazz scored 11 of the first 13 points of the fourth quarter.

Kanter's three-point play got Utah as close as 88-83 with 7:41 remaining.

Watson had eight assists in just 13 minutes and Kanter, the No. 3 pick in last year's draft, had one of the best scoring stretches of his young career.

"We tried something different and our guys responded well," Corbin said. "These guys have been great all year by just playing the minutes they get on the floor and just going out there and competing."

The absence of Williams was complicated when Derrick Favours strained his right arch in the first half and did not return. Point guard Mo Williams did return after missing the previous three games with a right foot injury, and had 13 points and six assists.

Kanter went 6 for 7 from the field, made both of his free throws and had four rebounds in the fourth quarter.

"It feels good but we lost the game," Kanter said. "That's why I'm not happy about my scores or my rebounds. In the end, all that matters is whether you win the game or not."

Notes: The Thunder hadn't won three straight games by at least 20 points since November 1997, according to STATS. In that stretch as the Seattle SuperSonics, they won by exactly 20 points against Milwaukee, Vancouver and San Antonio. The SuperSonics also won by at least 20 in four straight games in February 1994 and March 1995, according to STATS. Those are the only three times the franchise has won at least three games by at least 20 points. ... Corbin said Marvin Williams still had a headache Friday but was able to travel with the team to Oklahoma City after his hard fall Wednesday in New Orleans.

Kevin Durant (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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