Thunder beat Wizards for fourth straight win
WASHINGTON (AP) Flip Saunders has seen enough. Changes are coming for the Washington Wizards.
Kevin Durant had 35 points and 11 rebounds, Jeff Green added 18 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Wizards 110-98 Tuesday night for the franchise’s first four-game winning streak in 3 1/2 years.
“This team needs a mindset change,” the Wizards’ coach said after Washington’s third straight loss. “This team, the last five years, has been known as one of the worst defensive teams. … We couldn’t stop anybody out there.”
Added Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who scored 24 points: “Right now, we stink – and we’re showing it. You can sit here and talk about it every day, every game, every loss. But until we can turn it around, we stink.”
Saunders wouldn’t commit to specific adjustments, but said everything will be considered.
“Spots will be open. If guys don’t like it, that’s fine but that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said. “I’m not going to sit there, stand there and look at that any more. You evaluate for 30 games where you’re at. Right now, where it’s going, it ain’t getting done.”
In the middle of the Wizards’ misery were two players familiar to local fans. Durant was born in Washington, and grew up and played his high school ball at high schools Virginia and suburban Maryland. Green played three years at Georgetown.
It was the fifth straight game that Durant, who had 40 points in Monday’s win at New Jersey, topped the 30-point mark. He has exceeded 30 points nine times in Oklahoma City’s 14 December games.
“I could be more aggressive, I think,” Durant said. “I missed some shots I should have made. I wasn’t disciplined in following through.”
Green denied playing any harder with family and friends in attendance, but said the homecoming was made sweeter by the victory.
“I feel good because we’re winning. we’re playing good. we’re on a roll – especially to play good in front of your family. They probably only get to see you play live maybe once a year,” he said.
The Thunder, which last won four straight from April 2-6, 2006, when they were the Seattle SuperSonics, earned their ninth road victory of the season – one more than they had during 2008-09, their first season in Oklahoma City.
“We’re playing pretty decent right now. We can’t get complacent,” Durant said. “We know in the back of our heads it’s our first four-game winning streak in a couple of years. We’re excited about that, but we have to work hard every day.”
Saunders had a different take on the Thunder’s resurgence.
“That team is playing a lot better, but that’s not the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Los Angeles Lakers or those teams yet. … Until our guys decide that it hurts when teams score on you, we’ve got no chance. We’re kidding ourselves,” Saunders said.
The score was tied five times in the fourth quarter before the Thunder went on a decisive 14-2 run that began when a layup by Eric Maynor that erased the 90-89 lead. Washington had gone up on a right-side 3-pointer by Gilbert Arenas.
Saunders was most upset by his team’s inability to play effective man-to-man defense in the second half, and counted 46 uncontested shots allowed. The Wizards used a zone to stay close in the middle two periods, but Thunder players blew by Washington defenders down the stretch.
Oklahoma City hit 13 of 18 shots (72 percent) from the field in the fourth quarter.
“Guys want to come out of the zone and play man-to-man, but they can’t guard anybody. I can go out there on that floor and take anybody on our team on one-on-one at 52 years old and drive right around them,” Saunders said. “We’ve got to wake up. As I told them: Don’t think it can’t get any worse, because it can. There’s no question it can. We’ve got to have a sense of urgency.”
Antawn Jamison scored 28 points for the Wizards, who have three skids of three or more games this season.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden scored 11 apiece for the Thunder. Westbrook had 10 assists.
Arenas tallied the first nine points as Washington closed the first half on a 23-11 run for a 55-53 halftime lead.
Durant followed up a 14-point first quarter with the Thunder’s final nine of the first half, including a buzzer-beating windmill slam.
NOTES: Irene Pollin, the widow of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin, watched the game from the owner’s box. It was her first game since Abe Pollin died at 85 on Nov. 24 from a rare brain disease. … Thunder C Etan Thomas, who was the longest-tenured Wizards player before being traded to Minnesota before the 2009 draft, missed Tuesday’s game with the flu. … Former D.C. United soccer star Freddie Adu, who now plays professionally in Portugal, sat courtside and sang a line from “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from the movie “Dirty Dancing” as part of a scoreboard contest between the third and fourth quarters. … Washington got only eight points from its reserves.
Updated December 29, 2009