After losing three of their last four games at home, the Oklahoma City Thunder went to work on restoring their home-court dominance.
Russell Westbrook scored 28 points, Kevin Durant had 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and the Thunder played what coach Scott Brooks called one of their best defensive quarters of the season while beating the Portland Trail Blazers 111-95 on Sunday night.
James Harden added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which moved to 10-1 this season in the game immediately following a loss. The Thunder had lost at home to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
The Thunder shot 55.4 percent from the field, led by double digits for most of the final 39 minutes and improved their record to 34-11, best in the NBA’s Western Conference.
”We really couldn’t get into our normal rhythm, but I thought our energy was good enough to win the game,” Brooks said.
Jamal Crawford led Portland with 23 points while Raymond Felton had 19.
Oklahoma City opened the season with a 17-1 mark at Chesapeake Energy Arena, but its recent home slump had caused some to wonder if the Thunder might be vulnerable, even if they earned home-court advantage in the postseason, something Westbrook alluded to after the game.
”It’s going to be very important in the playoffs to be able to take the home court in the playoffs and get some wins,” Westbrook said.
On Friday, San Antonio led the Thunder by 27 points before a late rally by Oklahoma City. On Sunday, Oklahoma City allowed the Blazers only 15 points in the first quarter while racing to a double-digit lead of its own.
”The first quarter was really, really good,” Brooks said. ”Holding that team to 15 points, just the way we played, the mindset that we had going into the game was good, then we kind of relaxed. The rest of the game wasn’t as good, but we started the game off good defensively and we rebounded the ball pretty well.”
Portland closed within 84-76 with 10:20 left, but Harden made five straight free throws to start a 13-6 run. Durant’s 3-pointer with 6:51 left put the Thunder up 97-82 and Portland came no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Oklahoma City’s lone home loss during the 17-1 stretch was to the Blazers, but that Portland squad bore little resemblance to the lineup it fielded on Sunday.
Sunday’s game was the second for Portland since firing coach Nate McMillan, waiving former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden and trading starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby on Thursday. On Friday, the new-look Blazers posted an improbable 100-89 win at Chicago under 34-year-old interim coach Kaleb Canales, but they couldn’t replicate that effort in Oklahoma City.
”They’re the best team in the West for a reason,” Canales said. ”They’re very good at home. We just couldn’t put consecutive sequences of runs together and (the Thunder) did a very good job of responding.”
The Thunder never trailed. Oklahoma City closed the first quarter on a 21-5 run, scoring the final 10 points, to take a 31-15 lead. Oklahoma City led by as many as 21 in the second quarter before settling for a 57-42 halftime lead.
Portland closed within 75-63 with 2:27 left in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Crawford, who scored all but four of his points after halftime and kept the Blazers within striking distance.
Crawford missed another 3-point attempt moments later that would have pulled the Blazers within 10 points. The Thunder quickly rebuilt their advantage to 81-63 on a 3-pointer by Harden, but Portland went on a 13-3 run before Oklahoma City finally pulled away.
”We gave up a 31-point quarter and we came back and we responded,” Canales said. ”We knew they were going to come out aggressive, especially after a home loss. We talked about withstanding that first punch and I think we probably could have scored a little more and not dug ourselves so deep of a hole.”
Wesley Matthews added 16 points for Portland while LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Thabo Sefolosha scored 11 for the Thunder, going 3 of 3 from 3-point range. The Thunder finished 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) from behind the arc.
NOTES: Harden jammed his left index finger while making a steal in the first quarter. A trainer taped up the finger and Harden played the rest of the game. … The Thunder posted their 37th straight regular-season sellout, with a crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena … Portland center Hasheem Thabeet, obtained from the Houston Rockets in the trade involving Camby, was not with the Blazers on Sunday … Crawford and Portland’s Kurt Thomas both received technical fouls.