By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Playing shorthanded against one of the best teams in the NBA is not what Washington wanted to do. But after beating Oklahoma City earlier in the season under the same circumstances, it was hoping for a repeat performance.
Unfortunately for the Wizards, the Thunder had a different outcome in mind. They rolled over Washington 103-80 Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The win was the third in a row for the Thunder and the sixth in their last eight games as they continue to battle San Antonio for the top spot in the West Conference. Oklahoma City stayed a game and a half behind the Spurs.
“Right now, I know we love to win basketball games,” Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant said. “But it’s about bettering our habits. There’s 10 games left and we want to continue playing solid defense, moving the ball on offense and going out there wreaking havoc.”
The injury-ravaged Wizards (26-45) suffered only their third defeat in the past nine outings. After a competitive first half, they fell apart on both ends of the court in the second half. Oklahoma City held the Wizards to 35 second-half points.
“I was as proud of these guys tonight as I was the last game against Memphis,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about how you play. We were out tonight with eight guys and a lot of our key guys down. It was battle. They fought their hearts out.”
John Wall paced Washington with 17 points and 12 assists. However, he shot a paltry 3 for 18 from the field. Garrett Temple added 13 points, while Cartier Martin chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
Washington shot 32 percent from the field and connected on only five 3-pointers.
“When you don’t have to take the ball out of the net, we get a chance to use our athleticism and get out in transition,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We are really good, we’re fast. Then we put pressure on defense.”
Oklahoma City (53-19) got 21 points from Russell Westbrook and 18 from Kevin Durant, who shot 4 for 10 from the field. Kevin Martin Martin had 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3 for 4 from behind the arc.
Serge Ibaka led the defensive charge with four blocked shots as the Thunder held their opponent under 90 points for the fourth straight contest.
“We are doing a much better job on the ball,” Brooks said. “Doing a much better job of keeping the ball out of the paint. Our bigs are doing a fantastic job of changing, altering and blocking shots. Serge is on a nice defensive rhythm right now with his shot blocking.”
The point guard matchup between Westbrook and Wall had to wait after Westbrook picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of action. He went to the bench for the rest of the first quarter, leaving Wall to try to have his way with reserve Reggie Jackson.
However, the entire Oklahoma City squad had a hard time containing Wall.
The Thunder were called for eight fouls in the first period, and five of them came because of guarding Wall. That included Durant fouling Wall on a desperation 3-pointer right before the end of the first quarter. Wall’s free throws cut the Thunder’s lead to 29-23 heading into the second half.
When Wall wasn’t on the floor, the rest of the Wizards had a difficult time creating their own shots. They were able to stay in the contest because of Emeka Okafor hustling on the offensive boards. He didn’t pull down the rebounds but kept coming up with tap-outs that led to points for Washington.
Yet, Durant, Martin and Westbrook did just enough to give Oklahoma City a 53-45 halftime advantage.
The Thunder went on a 17-9 run to start the third quarter. Thabo Sefolosha led the charge with eight quick points.
“I think we just scrambled hard,” Durant said. “We were getting our hands on some basketballs.”
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