By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Heading into the final game of the regular season, Oklahoma City coach didn't want to hear anything about a night off. With his team riding a two-game losing streak and fighting for playoff positioning, he treated it like a playoff game.
It proved to be the right decision as the Thunder had to rally to beat the Detroit Pistons 112-111 Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The win secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for the Thunder (59-23), who will open the playoffs at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“If teams are angling that want to play us, that’s great,” Brooks said. “We are open to playing any team come Saturday. We are excited about the opportunity. We wanted to get healthy and we’re healthy. Going into the postseason, that’s what you want. Our guys are ready.”
With his team trailing by eight and looking anything but playoff ready, Kevin Durant began to take over offensively. He scored 15 of the Thunder’s first 19 points in the fourth quarter. That included a drive down the lane in which he dunked on Detroit’s Kyle Singler.
“He just started attacking,” Detroit’s Greg Monroe said of Durant. “I think he didn’t settle in the fourth. I think everything was at the rim. He hit a couple of pull ups, but I think he just started attacking. Once a guy that good gets into attack mode, it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop him.”
However, the Thunder were not making up any ground. The Pistons (29-53) matched them shot for shot. Detroit guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond and Monroe always seemed to have an answer.
But with 4:02 left in the game, Drummond fouled out, leaving the paint open for the Thunder to attack.
With 1:32 left, Oklahoma City cut the lead to three on a Durant layup. Detroit guard Brandon Jennings threw up a 30-footer that was off the mark and Russell Westbrook was fouled going for a loose ball. He made two free throws to close the gap to 111-110.
After Thunder guard Derek Fisher blocked Caldwell-Pope’s shot at the rim, Durant missed an easy putback on the other end that would have given the Thunder the lead.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Brooks said of Fisher’s block. “You guys were probably just as in awe as I was.”
Oklahoma City got the ball back on a turnover with 18 seconds left. After a timeout, Durant got the ball on the wing and drove to the basket for a go-ahead dunk.
Detroit was unable to get a clean shot off in the final seconds and Oklahoma City held on.
Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with a career-high 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field. Drummond added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Monroe had 22 points and nine assists. Singler finished with 20 points.
Durant scored 21 of his game-high 42 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook had 22 points, eight assists, six steals and six rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 15 points. Forward Serge Ibaka added 10 points, 15 boards and eight blocked shots.
“It's a new season now, 16 wins, that's all that matters," Westbrook said. "What we need to do better is just defend, do a better job of playing together and trying to win games."
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