Woodward, Okla. —
By Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant was not happy. Even though his Oklahoma City squad defeated Detroit 105-94, he was not impressed with the way the defending Western Conference Champions played in front of their home crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It could be a lot better,” Durant said. “I’m never satisfied. It’s a long season and an up and down season. I know. But we can do better. We have to find a way to do for 48 minutes as far as the energy is concerned. That starts with me. I have to be better. That goes down the line. If I come in with a great mindset, then hopefully the team follows.”
Before the game, Piston’s coach Lawrence Frank wanted to see how his team responded in the moment of truth. He wanted to see what it would do if it was down by six with under 6 minutes left in the game against one of the heavyweight teams in the NBA.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, the Thunder (4-2) didn’t let them get to that moment. Holding a five-point lead to start the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City pushed it into double digits before the 6-minute mark rolled around. It outscored Detroit 31-25 in the period.
“The effort our guys gave was tremendous,” Frank said. “The game came down to the second and fourth quarters in a sense. Turnovers for us, our inability to finish at the rim at crucial times.”
Serge Ibaka scored a career high 25 points to lead the Thunder. His previous high was 22.
Durant had 13 rebounds and 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. But more importantly, he had only two turnovers, three below his season average.
Andre Drummond paced Detroit with 22 points and pulled down five rebounds. Tayshaun Prince chipped in with 16 points in the loss.
“Andre’s performance isn’t surprising,” Detroit’s Greg Monroe said. “He did what he was supposed to do. He let everything come to him. He didn’t force anything. He was on the boards. I’m not surprised at all. That’s what he’s supposed to do.”
However, it was Oklahoma City which got off to the slow start. The only person to score for the Thunder in the first 5 minutes of the game was Ibaka. Yet, it only trailed 6-4 because the Pistons were unable to take advantage of Oklahoma City’s horrendous shooting.
Detroit (0-6) took an early lead as it got balanced scoring from Prince, Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey. It held a 19-18 lead after one quarter of action.
But Eric Maynor and Kevin Martin both came off the bench hitting jumpers from all over the court for the Thunder. They combined for 18 of the team’s first 36 points to push Oklahoma City back into the lead.
Maynor was especially hot as he connected for two 3-pointers and was 4 of 4 from the field in the half. But he needed to be on fire with Russell Westbrook’s shooting woes continuing. He started the game 0 of 5 and ended the half with 2 points, but the Thunder led 49-42 at halftime.
“He was phenomenal,” said Durant, of Maynor. “Getting his legs back under him. He’s been out for a year. He’s getting his wind back. He was really good for us controlling the game and hitting shots and being aggressive. That’s what we needed.”
The Pistons found their legs in the third period. Stuckey, Drummond and Brandon Knight joined Prince in making a run at the Thunder. They closed the gap to five points and got Oklahoma City out of its game. But the Thunder restored order in the fourth and went on to earn its third straight win.
“Well defense, that’s what we take pride in,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Last night in Chicago, they were as physical as any team in this league. And to play a back-to-back knowing that we had to play good defense, I’m happy with that.”