Westbrook leads Thunder to 5-0 start

Russell Westbrook scored 18 points and Daequan Cook hit four
3-pointers in quick succession to help Oklahoma City pull away in
the first half as the Thunder led wire to wire in a 107-97 victory
over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

The Thunder improved to 5-0 and remained perfect in four New
Year’s Eve home games that have become a tradition since the
franchise moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City.

Two nights after his buzzer-beater against Dallas, Kevin Durant
had only 12 points in his bid to become the first player since
Michael Jordan a quarter-century earlier to score at least 30 in
the first five games of a season.

Hakim Warrick and rookie Markieff Morris had 15 points apiece
for the Suns, who shot just 40 percent.

Oklahoma City led from the outset, getting a two-handed dunk
from Serge Ibaka just after the opening tip and scoring the first
seven points. The lead grew to 17-5 after Westbrook’s steal and
two-handed breakaway dunk just over 5 1/2 minutes in.

Channing Frye answered with a right-handed putback jam at the
other end to get Phoenix going, and the Suns closed within 23-22
after Robin Lopez’s two free throws to complete a 10-2 run.

That was the only time it would be close.

Nick Collison hit a runner at the other end, and Oklahoma City’s
reserves started to take over after the quarter break. Cook hit
four 3-pointers in a 5-minute span and Collison and Nazr Mohammed
both had two-handed slams during a 22-6 push that extended the lead
to 54-35.

The Thunder led by 14 at halftime, despite only two first-half
points from Durant, and only let Phoenix get closer than that a
couple times in the final 5 minutes, when both teams had reserves
playing in garbage time.

Durant’s 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds left in the third quarter
bumped Oklahoma City’s edge to 89-67 and the Thunder’s starters
remained on the bench throughout the final period as everyone got
to play.

Lazar Hayward, picked up in a preseason trade with Minnesota,
and first-round pick Reggie Jackson each got their first playing
time of the season. Hayward scored his first points with Oklahoma
City on a right-handed, fast-break dunk.

Jackson got his first pro bucket on a baseline drive for a
layup.

Thabo Sefolosha also scored 12 points, Collison added 11 and
James Harden had 10 points and matched his career high with eight
assists for Oklahoma City.

The Suns continued a dreadful offensive start to the season,
missing 18 of their first 22 attempts from 3-point range. They came
in making an NBA-worst 24 percent from behind the arc and only
managed to improve on it by making all four of their 3-point tries
in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix was fourth in the NBA last season by making 38 percent
of its 3-pointers.

Coach Alvin Gentry said before the game that roster changes and
a shortened preseason have allowed him to install only a small
portion of his offense and it showed.

Jared Dudley scored 14 points and Marcin Gortat added 12 for a
starting five that didn’t provide much scoring punch. The Thunder
have held their first five opponents to under 45 percent shooting,
and the Suns were the third opponent to make less than 40
percent.

”We have not been able to do a lot of the stuff that we
anticipated doing,” Gentry said. ”Obviously, we’ve got some of
the core guys but you’re talking about second-unit guys and things
like that. We haven’t been able to do nearly as much as we would
like to.

”From a playbook standpoint, we’ve probably put a third in as
opposed to what we would have done in a normal situation.”

NOTES: Gentry complimented Durant for making a ”phenomenal”
game-winning buzzer-beater two nights earlier but also said ”those
guys did a really good job of getting him open, even if it was an
illegal screen.” Video replays showed Kendrick Perkins and James
Harden both set moving screens to get Durant open. Counterpart
Scott Brooks only chuckled and said, ”Both picks were good.”…
The Thunder’s previous New Year’s Eve wins were against Golden
State in 2008, Utah in 2009 and Atlanta in 2010. … Hinder
guitarist Mark Long played the national anthem.