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.