Thunder 116, Rockets 99

Coach Scott Brooks struck a chord to get the Oklahoma City

Thunder playing better together on offense.

He told his players that all they had to do to earn a day off

was get 20 assists against the Houston Rockets.

The plan worked so well that Kevin Durant and some of the

Thunder’s other starters started their time off a little early.

Durant scored 24 points in only three quarters, Russell

Westbrook had 21 points and 12 assists and Oklahoma City beat

Houston 116-99 on Wednesday night for its most lopsided win this

season.

The Thunder had a season-high 26 assists and a season-low nine

turnovers – including one for purposely letting the shot clock run

out in the final seconds.

”Scotty should be saying that a lot,” Durant said.

Despite coming in as the NBA’s eighth-highest scoring team,

Oklahoma City was averaging a league-low 16.4 assists. But given a

little motivation, everything changed before a trip to Boston.

”I guess we’ll see them at the plane tomorrow,” said D.J.

White, who finished with 12 points – twice what he’d scored so far

this season – as the Thunder’s bench put the game away in the

fourth.

Durant came in playing elevated minutes due to Jeff Green’s

absence from the lineup with a sprained left ankle and a series of

close games for the Thunder. He was second in the league with 41

1/2 minutes per game, but played just under 30 with Oklahoma City

comfortably ahead.

”I don’t like it, but we were winning the game and coach wanted

to give me some rest,” Durant said. ”It was pretty cool that the

guys finished it out and got a good win.”

Luis Scola had 26 points and Kevin Martin scored 19 for Houston,

but both of them also stayed on the sideline in the final period

with the Rockets way behind and in the second leg of a

back-to-back.

Aaron Brooks missed his sixth straight game and Yao Ming his

fifth straight for Houston, while Oklahoma City’s Green sat out for

the fifth time in six games. All three have sprained left

ankles.

”We just have to figure it out,” Shane Battier said after

Houston fell to 3-8. ”We’ve got to grind it out right now.”

Oklahoma City never trailed after responding to Scola’s opening

basket with a 10-0 run, then put the game away late in the third

quarter.

The Rockets pulled to 75-69 on Martin’s layup midway through the

third, but Houston went more than 4 minutes without another basket

to fall behind by 15. Eric Maynor’s 3-pointer from the right wing

made it 89-74 with 1:31 left in the period.

Maynor buried another 3 early in the fourth quarter to make it

99-82, and Oklahoma City would eventually lead by 20.

”That’s what we have to do on the bench is build on the

momentum that the starters start with,” White said. ”That’s part

of being a team and growing together is building on the momentum,

and I think we did a good job of that coming in tonight focused on

the bench.”

Of Oklahoma City’s first six victories, only one came by double

digits – an 11-point victory against Chicago on opening night.

Three of the wins were decided by two points or less.

This time, Durant wasn’t needed for any late-game drama. He

stayed on the bench with a towel over his head, popping up to

congratulate the Thunder’s reserves after made baskets.

”Kevin loves to play. He loves to play and he wants to play,”

Brooks said. ”Tonight, he looked at me a few times but we had a

decent lead. … We’ve got some guys that have been out for a

while, so the minutes have been up for KD. He can handle a few

extra minutes here and there, but it’s good to get him going into

the fourth quarter where he doesn’t have to come up big for

us.”

Durant took a couple hard spills in the first half, including

after his left foot landed on Scola’s foot on a drive to the basket

following Oklahoma City’s early 10-0 run. He stayed down for the

Rockets’ ensuing possession but stayed in the game.

”It’s all part of the game,” Durant said. ”Hopefully, I

continue to just keep my body right and I’ll be all right down the

line.”

Scola scored 16 of Houston’s first 27 points, including six

during an 8-0 run that allowed the Rockets to erase a nine-point

deficit. Courtney Lee’s 3-pointer tied it at 30 early in the second

quarter, but Oklahoma City scored 13 of the next 15 points to take

control again.

Notes: Coach Rick Adelman isn’t sure what his plan for Yao will

be when he returns from a sprained left ankle that’s cost him four

games so far. ”I don’t know what his doctors are going to say.

It’s so up in the air. Probably the only thing I can say: My

biggest concern is he was working himself, trying to get in

condition. Now, he’s missed this time. Where is he going to be when

he comes back?” … The Rockets lost five points on replay reviews

during the fourth quarter of a 95-92 loss to Chicago on Tuesday

night, yet NBA rules didn’t allow for a review of whether the Bulls

beat the clock to get the ball across halfcourt. ”I just wish if

it was questionable at all, they would review everything,” Adelman

said. ”I don’t see why they don’t.”