By Randy Renner
Maybe a change of scenery is all Dion Waiters needed afterall and if Friday night is any indication he loves what he sees in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder struggled for three quarters with the Utah Jazz but closed them out in the fourth quarter to win 99-94 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder finally played lock down defense in the fourth quarter, holding a hot shooting Jazz team to just 28.6 percent in the last 12 minutes and Waiters hit a dagger three off an assist from Kevin Durant that had the soldout crowd on its feet and roaring.
"The fans are fantastic here, I can already feel the love," Waiters said.
Durant led all scorers with 32 points, breaking out of a mini shooting slump by hitting 14 of his 21 shots. He also handed out six assists and grabbed five rebounds. His last assist was the pass to Waiters who nailed an open 25-footer that gave OKC a four point lead with :23 to play. A minute earlier Durant had done the same thing but Waiters missed the shot.
"The first time he found me I was too excited and I was too open," he said. "I wanted to hit it real bad and I kinda rushed it and was off balance. When we came out of the timeout he said, 'be ready it's going to come around again,' and I just locked in and was ready."
Waiters finished with 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting and four steals.
"We trust all our guys," Durant had said a few moments earlier. "If he would have missed that one so what? But I'm glad he made it, it was a huge shot."
The shot that sealed the win as it turned out. The Jazz hit just one field goal over the last four and a half minutes of the game. Waiters also played a ley role on the defensive end.
"I just wanted to show everybody I'm not just a scorer, I can also play defense and just try to impact the game on the defenisve end. Defense leads to offense. So my main thing is to try and stop my guy, get a steal and turn it into offense."
Russell Westbrook had a much better shooting night too, scoring 25 points on 9-for-17 while handing out 12 assists. The Thunder finished with 25 assists and with a few more made baskets off of passes could have had 30.
"I thought we did a lot of good things out there tonight," head coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "We struggled the last two games but I like our energy and intensity tonight and we really passed the ball well."
Serge Ibaka added 12 points and seven rebounds.
On the downside, it took a while before the defense showed up. The Jazz shot 50 percent in the first half overall and 63.6 percent (7-for-11) on threes.
And other than Waiters, the Thunder didn't get much from anyone else on the bench. Reggie Jackson had five pojnts and wasn't on the floor at the end of the game. Kendrick Perkins had four points, Anthony Morrow had just two on 1-for-6 shooting and a couple of bad defensive plays. Nick Collison didn't score and Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb didn't play.
But the Thunder needed this one badly to get the taste of a sour California road trip out of their mouths and they accomplished that.
Now the schedule gives them a break of almost a week, the next game isn't until Thursday in Houston so the Thunder can spend several days on some quality practices, helping to get Waiters better accustomed to his new teammates.
A group he already likes.
"I'm excited, it's been great. I don't have to look over my shoulder anymore. The coaches here have told me just be me, just play my game."