Thunder Streak To Seven Straight

By Randy Renner

The Thunder survived a last quarter scare from the Sacramento Kings and ended up winning going away 104-92 giving the Thunder their seventh straight win and their ninth victory in the last 10 games.

OKC threated to run away and hide form the Kings early in the game, jumping out to a 34-18 lead in the first quarter. It was so bad Kings fans booed their team as they walked to their huddle.

Maybe that woke them up or gave the Thunder too much confidence but whatever the reason the Kings came back to life and got back into the game for a while. Sacramento even led briefly in the fourth quarter but the Thunder finished the game by clamping down on defense to get the win.

"Defensively, I think we've been locking in," said Kevin Durant, who played a season-high 35 minutes. "We have little spurts where we're bad, but overall I think we did a good job in playing defense."

Durant scored 26 points and at 26 years old became the second youngest player in the NBA to score 15,000 points. LeBron James reached that milestone at age 25 but remember James came into the league straight out of high school, while KD played a year of college.

Russell Westbrook also had a huge game and reached a record. Westbrook scored 32 points and is now averaging 25.8 points a game while playing an average of 29.4 minutes a game. He becomes the first player in NBA history to average at least 25 points in less than 30 minutes a game for the first 10 games of a season. Westbrook missed 14 games with a broken hand.

It was the first game for the Kings since Michael Malone was fired as coach and lead assistant Tyrone Corbin was promoted to interim coach. They dropped to 2-8 while star forward DeMarcus Cousins has been out of the lineup with viral meningitis.

"This is an I-don't-feel-sorry-for-you league," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "When we had guys hurt, I didn't get a lot of text messages, 'Hey, hang in there,' from the other 29 coaches in the league."

The Thunder also got seven blocks from forward Serge Ibaka and 10 rebounds from center Steven Adams.

They'll stay on the west coast the rest of the week for games at Golden State Thursday night and then at the LA Lakers on Friday night.

The Warriors lost for the first time since Veterans Day last night. The Memphis Grizzlies' defense made it tough on Golden State not allowing the Warriors to reach 100 points.

The last time the Thunder a Warriors played (last month in OKC) the Thunder, even without superstars Durant and Westbrook, put the clamps on the Warriors offense too. Oklahoma City held Golden State to their lowest point total of the season and their worst shooting night.

Even so the Thunder lost that game.

A similar defensive effort will likely be needed Thursday night but now at least the Thunder have the offensive firepower to stay with the Warriors even in a shootout.

This next one should be fun to watch and it should be a much better gauge as to how close the Thunder are now to the team that many consider to be the best in the NBA right now. It's another late game, with tipoff likely around 9:45 Thursday night. It's the second game of TNT's national TV double-header. The game will also be televised by Fox Sports Oklahoma.

What A Mess In Sac-Town

By Randy Renner

You know there was a time when Scotty Brooks would have loved to have been head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

He grew up just down the road in a small town in northern California, the Kings were the closest team and back in the day they were pretty darn good. The arena, called "Arco" back then, was always packed and always loud. It was one of the best, if not THE best game atmospheres in the NBA.

Brooks was an assistant there for a while before he hooked up with the Seattle SuperSonics which of course led him to Oklahoma City where he now leads a team that's more than a little bit like those classic Kings teams that could run circles around most anyone and Chesapeake Energy Arena is now known as the loudest arena in the NBA. Back in Sac-Town old "Arco Arena" is now known as "Sleep Train Arena" and fans do more dozing than cheering.

Now days Brooks only likes to visit his old stomping grounds, he wouldn't want to coach there anymore. Not a very good life expectancy for coaches there these days.

On a whim apparently, the Kings new ownership fired a good coach over the weekend even though the team has been without star forward DeMarcus Cousins for the last couple of weeks. Cousins is still recovering from viral meningitis. His absence sent the Kings season spiraling and there was little coach Michael Malone or anyone else could do about it.

Malone got the axe anyway and now Ty Corbin, who was Malone's lead assistant and formally coached the Utah Jazz, takes over.

Corbin and the shorthanded Kings now must face a rejuvenated and healthy again Thunder squad that's on a big time roll.

The Kings lost to the Thunder earlier this season in Oklahoma City while the Thunder were still ailing so the Kings may not be able to put up much resistance tonight.

That of course is also when teams like the Kings can be the most dangerous, especially if the Thunder go into the game thinking (like most of us) that they already have the game won.

I doubt the Thunder will fall victim to that sort of thinking. The team and especially superstar point guard Russell Westbrook seem locked in on the mission at hand, winning as many games as possible to get as close to the rest of the pack as possible in the loaded Western Conference.

OKC begins the day in a 3-way tie with Sacramento and Phoenix for ninth place in The West, just a half game behind New Orleans for the eighth spot.

The Thunder have won six straight games and eight of the last nine to climb almost all the way out of the 3-12 hole they buried themselves in over the first month of the season.

This trip to the west coast offers a chance to win at least two more games, tonight in Sacramento and Friday night in Los Angeles against a terrible Lakers team. It also offers up a showdown game with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.

Remember back on November 23rd at The Peake the Thunder, still without Westbrook and superstar forward Kevin Durant, almost beat the Warriors by holding them to their point total of the season and their worst shooting percentage by far.

The Thunder defense is still as good as it's been. OKC leads the NBA in scoring defense giving up just 94 points a game. They're second in opponent shooting percentage allowing teams to hit a meager 41.7 percent of their shots.

The biggest difference the Thunder are enjoying now that KD and Russ are back is the explosive offense. The Thunder have gone from averaging just under 90 points a game with their stars on the bench to averaging almost 105 a game with them back out on the court.

It has proven to be a deadly combination for opponents and if it continues, by the time the Thunder are back home on Sunday night they'll be above .500, solidly back in the playoff race and up and out of that November hole.

 

Thunder, Suns Continue Streaking

By Randy Renner

The Thunder blew out the Phoenix Suns 112-88 and both teams continue streaking in opposite directions. 

Oklahoma City has now won six straight and eight of the last nine, while Phoenix has dropped five straight and seven of the last nine. 

The Thunder win now puts them just a half game behind the Suns for eighth place in the Western Conference. 

The Thunder started heating up when their injured superstars returned to the lineup and both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had huge nights Sunday evening. 

Westbrook led all scorers with 28 points and came close to triple-double territory once again with eight rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook did not play in the fourth quarter. 

Durant added 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting and he grabbed eight rebounds.  Anthony Morrow came off the bench to score 14 and Serge Ibaka added 12 on 5-for-7 shooting.

The Thunder took control early scoring 41 points in the first quarter (a season high) and 70 points in the first half. OKC also had 70 points in the first half the other night in Minnesota and that marks the first time the Thunder have scored that many points in two straight first halves. 

Oklahoma City never trailed and led by as many as 27 points. In addition to cranking out the points the Thunder also did another grat job on the defensive end. The Thunder came into the game allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA (93.5) and bested that by giving up just 88 to Phoenix. The Thunder were second in the league in opponent field goal percentage (42.1) and bested that too allowing the Suns to shoot just 34.3 percent (a season-low for Phoenix).

"It was a combination of defense at a high level and moving the ball that put us in good position," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. 

The Thunder are looking more and more like the team everyone thought they would be before all the injury troubles and now they head out to the west coast for a big time road trip, visiting Sacramento on Tuesday and then a showdown at Golden State on Thursday night. The trip wraps up in L.A. against the Lakers on Friday. 

"Hopefully we can keep the streak alive," said Jackson. "We're just trying to get as many wins as we can." 

 

Fast And Furious In OKC

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns both love to run and score in transition and neither team plans to try to slow things down when they play each other this evening. 

"We wanna score in transition," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 

"We can't slow it down," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek pointed out, "That's just not the way we play." 

The Suns have had problems lately keeping up with the teams they"re playing, they've lost four straight And haven't held anyone under 100 points and over the last couple of games the Suns have been abused down low. 

"We've given up 60 or so points in the paint the last couple of games, so we have to clean that up, a lot of things have contributed to that, not just one or two." 

While the Suns have lost four straight the Thunder are headed the other direction, winning five straight and seven of their last eight. The Thunder also now lead the league in scoring defense, giving up just 94.3 points and they are holding opponets to just 42.1 percent shooting (second worst in the NBA).

So it should be a fun night at The Peake, tipoff at 6 o'clock. Click back here after the game for complete coverage, including reaction from inside the lockerroom.

Thunder Lock Down Shorthanded Cavs

By Randy Renner

LeBron James missed his first game if the season with a sore left knee and the Thunder took full advantge of his absence, beating the Cavaliers 103-94 and holding them to just 36.5 percent shooting. 

The Cavs came in hot, having won eight in a row. During the streak they were outscoring their opponents by almost 15 points a game, averaging 106.1 points on 50.1 percent shooting. 

They fell well short of those marks Thursday night thanks to a tenacious Thunder defense. In addition to the low shooting percentage the Cavs turned the ball over 15 times. 

Russell Westbrook had another big night and led all scorers with 26 points on 12-for-24 shooting. He also handed out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds, so once again he came close to a triple double. 

Kevin Durant got off to a slow start but took the game over in the closing minutes, scoring the last eight Thunder points. and finishing with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Thunder dominated inside, scoring 48 points in the paint, while the Cavs managed just 28. The Thunder also ran the Cavs into the ground, scoring 21 fast break points on 9-for-13 shooting in transition. The Cavaliers never could get the running game in gear, scoring just seven fast break points on 2-for-8 shooting. 

Oklahoma City didn 't start the game very well, turning the ball over seven times in the first quarter. They trailed 26-18 after the first 12 minutes. But the second and third quarters were all Thunder, outscoring the Cavaliers 60-40 in those 24 minutes. 

That gave them the cushion they needed to withstand a Cavs rally at the end.

"They're a talented team even without LeBron," said Durant. "They hit us in the mouth early and then we came back. Every game is a challenge but we're growing every day." 

And getting closer to digging themselves out of that deep, deep hole they were buried in just a couple of weeks ago. OKC has now won four straight and six of the last seven since suffering through a six game losing streak. The record is now up to 9-13 and if things break the right way over the next couple of days they could actually be in eighth place in the Western Conference by the end of Sunday evening.

The Thunder flew to Minneapolis right after the game and will play the Timberwolves Friday night, then it's right back home to play Phoenix on Sunday when eighth place may be on the line.