Thunder defeats Suns
BY MURRAY EVANS Associated Press
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
1/01/13 at 5:56 AM
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Thunder as the 2012-13 season
OKLAHOMA CITY - Receiving eight stitches above his right eye might have been painful, but it wasn't enough to keep Russell Westbrook from practicing his whirling dervish ways Monday night for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook returned from the wound to finish with 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Kevin Durant scored 30 points and the Thunder pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 114-96 win over the Phoenix Suns.
"When you see blood, you don't know what to do," Durant said of Westbrook. "I was glad he came back here and got stitched up and was able to play again. He came out there with a lot of anger and it showed on both ends of the floor. He pushed us over the top."
Oklahoma City extended its home-court winning streak to 12 games - longest in the NBA - and won on New Year's Eve for the fifth straight year since the franchise moved from Seattle. The Thunder closed 2012 by winning 15 of its last 17 games.
Luis Scola scored 24 points to lead Phoenix, which dropped its sixth straight game and fell to the Thunder for the seventh straight time. The Suns haven't beaten Oklahoma City since Dec. 19, 2010.
Westbrook left the game late in the first half with a cut over his right eye that required stitches. In his absence, the Thunder started the second half with Reggie Jackson at point guard and went on a 12-0 run to seize control. Oklahoma City never trailed again, although Phoenix pulled within two points twice in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
"It was just energy," Durant said. "We just upped our energy level. We were moving the basketball so well. Everybody was touching it. We got good shots."
After missing about seven minutes of game time, Westbrook came straight from the locker room with tape above his eye, checked in with 6:24 left in the third quarter and went to work. He drew a foul and made both free throws, and after a two-handed dunk by Durant, Westbrook drilled a 17-foot jumper, then hit three free throws after being fouled behind the arc.
Westbrook then assisted on a basket by Serge Ibaka and followed with a 3-pointer to put Oklahoma City ahead 82-68, its biggest lead of the game, at the 3:44 mark.
"Russ is tough," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "He competes. He does a lot of good things. Russell plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of toughness. He just plays hard. I'm so proud of the way he plays every night."
Scola had seven points in a 9-2 run by the Suns that pulled them within 84-78 by quarter's end, and Phoenix closed within 87-85 with 9:05 left on a basket by Jermaine O'Neal. But Nick Collison answered with a 16-foot jumper for the Thunder, and after a couple of empty possessions by both teams, Thabo Sefolosha's 3-pointer with 7:32 left put Oklahoma City up 92-85.
The Thunder put the game away with a 12-2 run, capped by a eight-foot floating jumper by Westbrook in the lane with 3:08 left to make it 104-89.
The Thunder recalled first-round draft choice Perry Jones III and a pair of former Kentucky players, center Daniel Orton and guard DeAndre Liggins, from the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League.
Oklahoma City center Hasheem Thabeet blocks a shot by Phoenix center Jermaine O'Neal during Monday's game in Oklahoma City. SUE OGROCKI / AP