Thunder roll to easy victory over Jazz

Associated Press
3/14/2013 12:05:02 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The last time these teams met, Utah handed visiting Oklahoma city a 15 point loss. Just over a month later, the Thunder returned the favour on their home court.

Kevin Durant had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Russell Westbrook scored 19 points and Oklahoma City cruised to a 110-87 victory over the Jazz on Wednesday night.

The win came two nights after the Thunder lost at San Antonio to remain in second place in the Western Conference behind the Spurs.

"It was important after a loss to try and bounce back," Durant said. "This team beat us pretty badly up in Utah so we wanted to come out and send a message and we did that."

Durant struggled early, recording more turnovers (6) than points (5) through the first 22 minutes. The NBA's leading scorer didn't convert until 3.8 seconds left in the first quarter and finished the half with eight points.

Westbrook picked up the slack, leading all scorers with 13 points at the break and adding five assists. However, the Thunder All-Star was able to keep the offence attacking while Durant struggled.

Oklahoma City, which owns the third-best record in the league at 48-17, still led 29-19 at the end of the first quarter and 50-28 by halftime.

While Durant struggled, Oklahoma City's defence clamped down.

"I thought that was the game right there, the way we came out in the first and second quarter just playing good defence and scoring off of that," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "In the second we obviously scored much better."

Kevin Martin added 15 points for the Thunder.

Durant found his rhythm in the third quarter, scoring nine of Oklahoma City's first 11 points and 15 total to push the Thunder lead to 32.

His only assist of the night came during halftime when he helped an elderly fan to her feet after she had fallen courtside.

Durant also had eight turnovers, including six in the first half.

"I was struggling early on really bad and I was down on myself," Durant said. "My teammates came to my rescue but (Westbrook) was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that for me."

Gordon Hayward scored 20 points to lead Utah, and Enes Kanter had 12. The Jazz lost for the eighth time in 10 games, but remained one-half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the West.

The Jazz shot 35 per cent from the floor, committing 24 turnovers and getting outrebounded 37-22.

Before the game, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said Utah's big men would pose the greatest challenge to his team. The Thunder wound up scoring 38 points in the paint and held Utah's frontcourt of Demarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to just 15 points.

Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins were a big reason for that. Ibaka scored 10 points and Perkins was scoreless, but turned in a superb defensive effort..

"I thought our bigs did a great job," Brooks said. "I think if you had to give a game ball you would certainly give one to (Perkins). He was a big impact throughout the game not only on his man but anchoring our defence and not allowing any easy points in the paint during that first three quarters. He's been doing it all year. He takes pride in his individual defence and our team defence."

Millsap, who scored seven points to go with seven rebounds, played for the first time since Friday in Chicago after missing two games with inflammation in his right knee. The Jazz were also without backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who missed his second game due to illness.

The large lead allowed Brooks the opportunity to play all his reserves.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin got the same opportunity for different reasons.

"We have been looking at different lineups the last couple of weeks and we will definitely look at that the next couple of weeks," Brooks said of his approach heading into the final 17 games of the regular season. "Shortening the rotation -- we do it game to game. It's hard to play a lot of guys in this NBA season. You have some good players that don't play.

NOTES: Oklahoma City has won nine of its last 12 games. ... Utah slipped to 10-24 on the road. ... Five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls were called on the night.

Kevin Durant (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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