Durant scores 40 in Thunder’s 105-89 win over Nets
By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder seemingly have found a winning formula — Kevin Durant and a lot of defense.
Durant matched his season high with 40 points and the Thunder defeated New Jersey 105-89 Monday night, sending the Nets to their 10th straight loss — their second double-digit losing streak of the season.
The key for the Thunder was the final 17 minutes when they limited New Jersey to 17 points, including 13 in the final quarter.
“I was so pleased with the how we played in the fourth quarter,” said Durant, who made 15 of 22 shots and excited the road crowd with a couple of big dunks. “No matter if I got 40 or not, we played so hard in the fourth and limited their touches, limited them to one shot and out and we got some easy baskets. That was a great effort in the fourth.”
The win was a season-high third straight for the Thunder (16-14).
“We have a long ways to go,” Durant said. “We still have a lot of slip-ups in games, but we are getting better. Hopefully, we peak at the right time.”
Former Net Nenad Krstic added 19 points and Russell Westbrook had 16 points and 10 assists. Reserve Nick Collison added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think the third quarter and even the fourth we really locked up defensively,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, whose team is now 13-2 when holding the opposition under 100 points. “That’s what we are. When we defend it gives us a chance to win, and Kevin was really good.”
Yi Jianlian matched his career high with 29 points to lead New Jersey, which set an NBA record with 18 straight losses to start the season.
“He’s really improving,” Brooks said of Yi, who missed seven weeks with a knee injury and a cut lip. “Hopefully, he can stay healthy. He’s a terrific player and he does a lot of things well.”
Courtney Lee chipped in with 17 for the Nets (2-29), while Trenton Hassell had 14 and Devin Harris had 11 and 11 assists.
The Thunder led most of the game, but the Nets scored nine straight points midway through the third quarter and took a 72-70 lead on a 3-pointer by Lee.
Durant was then fouled on a 3-point attempt by Terrence Williams and made all three shots to ignite a game-closing 35-17 spurt.
Durant and Krstic combined for the first 12 points in the run with Durant getting seven — five on free throws — and Krstic five. His 19 points were one less than his season high.
Yi, who was 10 of 16 from the field, made the Nets’ only two baskets in the final 5:42 of the third quarter.
Two free throws by Westbrook gave the Thunder an 84-76 lead entering the final quarter.
“For me that was the key to the game,” Krstic said. “We had five or six stops in a row and we scored on the other end and played tough defense. We just played good as a team.”
A fastbreak basket by Lee closed the gap to six points but Oklahoma City scored the next 10 points with James Harden getting three and Collison and Durant exciting the crowd with big dunks.
Durant’s was an eye-popping baseline drive that ended with a windmill jam. His final points of the night came after a steal and free-run for a dunk from halfcourt.
“I don’t know if we ran out of gas or did they turn it up?” Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “Give them credit. We have to find a way to push through that last 12 or 15 minutes when teams make runs.”
New Jersey was 6 of 18 from the field in the final quarter when it relied on jump shots. It only had two free throws in the quarter.
“We stopped running like we were running in the first half and the shots weren’t falling in the second half. We shot 21 free throws in the first half. We have to play the same way for 48 minutes and attack the basket and get to the line.”
NOTES: Yi’s 18 first-half points were a career high for a half, one more than his previous high. … The Thunder play six of their next seven games against teams with sub .500 records. The win was the Thunder’s eighth on the road this year, matching their total from last season. … Oklahoma City is 11-2 when Krstic scores in double figures. … New York Jets linebackers Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were at the game.
Received 12/28/09 11:20 pm ET