Collison's free throws lift Thunder to 87-86 winJan 1, 2010 - 4:36 AM By JEFF LATZKE AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY(AP) -- Nick Collison is the only player left from the last time the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise won five games in a row, more than four long, loss-filled years ago.
With a crucial offensive rebound and two clutch free throws, he let his teammates find out what it feels like, too.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points to tie a franchise record for consecutive 30-point games, Collison hit the tying and go-ahead free throws with 4.5 seconds left and the Thunder beat the Utah Jazz 87-86 on Thursday night.
The Thunder franchise, which moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City before last season, hadn't won five in a row since March 18-25, 2005.
"We're finding a way to win games," Collison said. "We've been talented for a long time and now we're finding a way to win even when we don't play well."
Collison came away with the ball after Durant missed a jumper from the right wing, and was fouled by Paul Millsap in the process. After hitting only one of his previous four foul shots, Collison made both when it counted the most.
"The bottom line is that somebody stepped up," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Nick got in there, and he always does. Nick finds a way to help his team win."
Ronnie Price missed a 3-pointer from the right side at the final buzzer for Utah, which got a final surge from Deron Williams to pull ahead before Collison's game-winning free throws.
Carlos Boozer scored 17 points, reserve Wesley Matthews had 14and Mehmet Okur had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz.
"It's a tough one to swallow. We were right there," said Williams, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the final 5 minutes, including a three-point play with 58 seconds left that gave Utah the lead.
"We played good enough defense the whole game to win the basketball game. Just offensively, we didn't have everybody going."
Durant surpassed 30 points for the sixth straight game, tying a franchise record set by Spencer Haywood in January 1972. He and Jeff Green ran together for a mid-air chest bump after Price's shot caromed off the rim, and white, red, yellow and blue balloons dropped from the rafters.
The win gave the Thunder the same 18-14 record as Utah, one year after a New Year's Eve win against Golden State was only their fourth of the season.
"It feels good. It's a big step up," Durant said. "We have a long ways to go, though. We can't get satisfied."
Williams had been practically silent all night before he scored the final 10 points for the Jazz, including getting fouled on a driving jumper in the final minute. He had a season-low three assists.
Green added 12 points but a season-high six turnovers, Collison scored 11 and Russell Westbrook had eight points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder had their largest lead at 70-62 after Eric Maynor stripped the ball from Okur and raced down the floor for a fast-break layup early in the fourth quarter. The Jazz charged right back with a 10-2 spurt that featured three baskets by Matthews, including the tying fast-break layup with 8:16 remaining.
Williams scored five straight points to give Utah its first lead of the second half at 81-78. Durant answered with a 3-pointer to tie it with 3:12 to play, then Westbrook had a two-handed dunk to put Oklahoma City on top.
Collison answered Williams' driving right-handed jam with a layup before Williams gave the Jazz the lead one last time. Then Collison, in the game because Green had five fouls, provided another response.
"He's a winning basketball player. He knows that. Everybody around the league knows that," Brooks said. "Every player in this league can't be on a winning team. The thing that I love about Nick is that he never accepted losing and never got into losing habits."
The win put Oklahoma City in a tie with Utah for what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, even though the season isn't even halfway done yet.
"It's early, man. We're just hitting the new year. Anything can happen in these next three or four months," Durant said. "We've just got to continue to play our brand of basketball and get better and worry about us."
NOTES: Nine days after being traded from the Jazz to the Thunder in a salary-dumping move by Utah, Maynor had four points and six assists - his most since joining his new team. ... The Thunder committed 20 turnovers, ending a string of eight straight games with 14 or fewer. ... Williams is 14 assists shy of 3,000 for his career. ... The Oklahoma City franchise's last winning streak of more than five games came in November 2004, when Seattle won nine in a row after losing its season opener.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
UTAH 24 22 16 24 86
OKLAHOMA CITY 22 26 17 22 87 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: UTH - CARLOS BOOZER 17, WESLEY MATTHEWS 14,
DERON WILLIAMS 14
OKC - KEVIN DURANT 31, JEFF GREEN 12, NICK
Dec 31 10:28 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 65 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 31 9:53 PM
END 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
MIAMI 26 23 13 62
SAN ANTONIO 26 32 28 86 END 3RD QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 3RD QUARTER
MIA - MICHAEL BEASLEY 22, DWYANE WADE 16,
JERMAINE O'NEAL 6
SAS - TIM DUNCAN 23, MANU GINOBILI 16,
TONY PARKER 15
NBA HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- --
Dec 31 9:10 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 22 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 31 8:36 PM
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