8:30 PM ET, October 13, 2008
BOK Center, Tulsa, OK
Durant takes charge late as Thunder win first preseason game in Oklahoma
Durant shrugged off a late injury and scored 20 of his 26 points in an electrifying final 8 minutes to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Houston Rockets 110-104 on Monday night for their first preseason win.
Durant put back Russell Westbrook's fast-break miss with 1:03 remaining to put the Thunder up 103-102 with 1:03 remaining and then played through a twisted ankle to hit another jumper and stretch the lead to three.
After D.J. Strawberry hit two free throws to close the gap to one, Durant hustled back after a Westbrook turnover to block Strawberry's potential go-ahead basket.
He then hit two free throws to push it to a 107-104 edge, followed that by swatting away another shot by Aaron Brooks and finally grabbed the rebound on Brent Barry's missed jumper to set up two free throws by Nick Collison that put the game away.
"It was one of those things at the end of the game you've got to fight through," said Durant, preparing to plunge his foot into a plastic tub of ice water. "That's what I tried to do."
Brooks scored 20 off the bench to lead the Rockets, Strawberry added 16 and Yao Ming had 15 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in one half of action -- playing the first and third quarters.
Durant, the reigning rookie of the year, had a dunk and a fast-break layup and then hit two free throws to cap a string of eight straight points for Oklahoma City and even the score at 93. And he wasn't done yet.
He answered Barry's three-point play with one of his own to get Oklahoma City within 102-101, and then his final push gave the Thunder their first lead of the second half.
Because it came in a preseason game, the final flourish that started with Oklahoma City trailing 93-85 won't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. But for a tired bunch in the homestretch of a four-game road trip, it's the kind of energy boost the banged-up Thunder need.
Jeff Green (sprained ankle) was the latest addition to Oklahoma City's injured list that already included Robert Swift (hand), Kyle Weaver (groin), Mouhamed Sene (knee), Joe Smith (nose) and D.J. White (jaw). Damien Wilkins took a shot to the head in the fourth quarter against Houston and didn't return.
The Thunder play their first game in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Whether it will translate [Tuesday] or not, I don't know," Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I just like how we competed, how much enthusiasm and how much intensity we played with. That, to me, was far and away the best thing."
Carlesimo was more thrilled with Durant's breakout defensively, since his scoring punch is already well-proven. He's been harping this preseason on improving one of the NBA's worst defenses.
"We're just trying to get better this preseason, and I think that tonight we got a lot better. Everybody came to play," Durant said.
Tracy McGrady, who played the first quarter for his first preseason action in the Rockets' previous game, sat out for the third time in four games after having offseason surgery to remove loose bodies from his left knee and left shoulder.
"I think every game we're getting better. We've got to keep making improvements, keep going forward and things will be good," Brooks said.
Carlesimo said the surgery to remove a benign growth from White's jaw was going on during the game. ... Carlesimo said the stretch of five preseason games in seven days was created because of the Thunder's decision to opt into the Tulsa preseason game against the Rockets, who had been scheduled to face the Orlando Magic. By that point, the game date wasn't flexible. "For us, it's really good to be home. It's really good to be back in the state. From the beginning, we felt that playing a game here was important. Even though we're clearly Oklahoma City's team, we're very much a team of the state also." ... Attendance was 10,007 at a half-full BOK Center.