OKLAHOMA CITY — When Russell Westbrook went down in the first week of the season with a fractured bone in his hand, it looked like Oklahoma City’s season was lost. Already without Kevin Durant, they floundered around for a month.
Since the return of the Thunder’s two most dynamic players, the Thunder have been on a roll. That roll continued Sunday with a 112-88 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Westbrook and Durant combined for 51 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Thunder to their sixth straight victory and moved to 11-13 on the season.
“Hopefully we can keep the streak alive,” Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said. “We’re trying to get better each and every day. Just trying to rack up as many wins as possible.”
While the Thunder have been surging, over that same time span, the Suns (12-13) have lost five straight and their lead over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings has shrunk to half a game.
Phoenix came into the night averaging 105 points a game. But the combination of the Thunder’s stifling defense and rebound advantage (63-40) and the Sun’s paltry shooting (34 percent), prevented them from getting anywhere near their average.
“They came out right from the start and got after it,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You have to have that intensity from the start. They took it at us.”
Westbrook led all scorers with 28 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists in only 26 minutes of work. Durant added 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Forward Serge Ibaka added 12 points.
The 63 rebounds was a season high for the Thunder. It’s also the third time they have outboarded their opponent by more than 20.
Guard Gerald Green paced the Suns with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Guard Eric Bledsoe was held to 12 points and four assists.
Before the game started, Hornacek asked if anyone had any ideas on how to keep Westbrook out of the paint. Whatever plan he came up with didn’t seem to work early on.
Westbrook scored 14 first-quarter points and was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line as the Thunder led 70-49 at halftime. It’s the first time they’ve scored 70 points in a first half in back-to-back games since moving to Oklahoma City.
“Russell did a good job of setting the tone,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought it was good effort, good combination, good ball movement to start the game.”
No matter what the Suns tried, they could not slow down the Thunder. Oklahoma City beat them at their own game of high-octane basketball. Mostly because they had Westbrook and Durant and Phoenix didn’t.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Thunder had emptied its bench.
“We are not hungry enough,” Suns guard Isaiah Thomas said. “Teams come down and force their will on us. We need to play with a sense of urgency. From the first guy to the last guy on the bench. The coaching staff, everybody.”
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