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Westbrook, Thunder coast past Suns
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Westbrook, Thunder coast past Suns

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 18 points, Daequan
Cook hit four 3-pointers in quick succession to help Oklahoma City pull
away in the first half and 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.