The Norman Transcript

March 14, 2013

KD, Thunder able to get past early struggles

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — Unlike many super stars, Kevin Durant isn’t afraid to admit he can’t do it by himself. That there are games when the league’s leading scorer is just not playing at the level he wants to carry his Oklahoma City squad.

That is where he was Wednesday with Utah in town. After suffering through one of the worst first halves the season, Durant relied on his teammates to carry him to a 110-87 victory over the Jazz at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“It was a slow start,” Durant said. “Turned the ball over too many times. I don’t care who you are or what type of player you, you’ve got confidence issues if you turn the ball over so many times, miss so many shots. You get down on yourself. I want to do so well all the time. Sometimes I can’t do that well. But I get down on myself and I ‘m still learning how to get out of that.”

With the L.A. Lakers losing also, Utah (33-32) remained one game behind the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City (48-18) didn’t play up to its normal standards, either. Coming off its thrashing at the hands of San Antonio, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks had hoped to see a better offensive showing. Instead, his team shot 50 percent from the field and racked up 25 turnovers.

But the Thunder’s defense was good enough to earn the blowout victory and stay one game behind the Spurs for the best record in the conference.

“We have a lot of pride. So I told them today, let’s go out here and do what we do,” Kendrick Perkins said. “Don’t worry about anything else but making it hard on them.”

Durant almost had a dubious triple double, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight turnovers. It was also the second straight game he shot 7 for 13 from the field in 28 minutes.

Russell Westbrook added 19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five turnovers. Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 15.

No Utah starter reached double figures in points, rebounds or assists. Gordon Hayward paced the team with 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Al Jefferson had eight points and seven rebounds.

Durant started out cold from the field with a 1-for-4 shooting performance. Several of his shots came when he drove into the paint and collided with Utah’s big men. However, the league leader in free throw makes and percentage didn’t get the foul calls. He also accounted for six turnovers in the first half.

As bad as Durant looked, the entire Jazz lineup was off their game. They shot 22.7 percent in the first two quarters and trailed Oklahoma City 50-28 at halftime. The Thunder held the Jazz to nine points in the second quarter, a record for the fewest points allowed in a quarter in the Oklahoma City era.

The Thunder made a concerted effort to get the ball to Durant in the third quarter, and he went on the attack. He scored nine of the team’s first 11 points and gave Oklahoma City a 61-35 lead.

“I was struggling early on really bad,” Durant said “Was down on myself. My teammates came to my rescue. Russell was the main guy. I really appreciate him doing that. He could have just easily let me fall to the wayside. He kept me involved, kept my spirits up. That is what you need a point guard to do.”

The only real spirit the Jazz showed the entire night took place when DeMarre Carroll gave Durant a little hip check as the two crossed halfcourt midway through the third. As the flagrant foul was being called, Westbrook got into Carroll’s face and landed a well place forearm into his chest.

The players had to be separated and Durant had to calm Westbrook down. That was not enough to pick up the energy level for the rest of the team. Even though the two teams combined for five technical fouls, it was a one-sided fight.

“It wasn’t a dirty foul,” Carroll said. “He had just hit six points. I was trying to stop him. That’s what defensive people do. You don’t let him keep getting a rhythm. I fouled him, but I don’t think it was a flagrant foul. I guess cause the crowd got into it, they had to call a flagrant.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth

mkinney@normantranscript.com

 

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.