Durant, Green lead Thunder to rare victoryJan 1, 2009 - 5:20 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- As confetti rained down from the ceiling of the Ford Center on Wednesday night, it seemed strangely appropriate. After all, Oklahoma City Thunder victories have been about as rare as New Year's Eve celebrations this year.
But the Thunder managed to close out 2008 on a high note, outlasting the Golden State Warriors for a 107-100 victory - just their fourth of the season. Second-year forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green combined for 51 points to lead the way as Oklahoma City snapped a five-game losing skid.
"When we came out tonight, we said we wanted to bring in the new year with a win and we came out and played hard for four quarters and did the things we needed to win," Durant said.
The Thunder pulled ahead midway through the third quarter with a 10-3 run, which included 3-pointers from Green and rookie point guard Russell Westbrook and a 23-footer just inside the arc by Durant. They held the lead for the rest of the night, withstanding the Warriors' mini-rallies.
"Tonight I thought our guys, especially Chris Wilcox, was intense on both ends of the floor and was a major spark plug for us," Thunder interim coach Scott Brooks said.
Golden State staged an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 87-84, but Wilcox answered on the other end with a dunk to push the lead back to five.
"No matter what they did, we stopped it and then they could never counter with anything big on their end," Wilcox said.
More than anything, Wednesday's contest was a brief reprieve for the Thunder, who have suffered through a miserable campaign - the franchise's first since moving from Seattle over the summer. Thanks in large part to an oft-ineffective offense and a roster full of inexperienced talent, the team has struggled so much that whispers of surpassing the infamous 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers as the losingest squad in NBA history have already cropped up.
On the plus side, at least their losing streaks have been getting shorter each time. They dropped 14 straight in November before closing the month with a victory over Memphis. This month, they lost eight in a row before a victory over Toronto and proceeded to lose just five in a row before getting in the win category once again.
"It feels good. This thing is a work in progress," Green said. "Every game we've been in, we've learned from our mistakes and we finally got over the hump. We got the stop we needed to and we pulled through."
Wednesday's contest was another good sign. Durant - who came into the game as the league's eighth-leading scorer - had another big game, and didn't just do damage with his shot. The lanky 6-9 swingman has had offensive success, but hasn't yet rounded out his scoring ability with much of a post presence.
In Wednesday's victory, however, Durant registered 10 boards - notching a double-double for the second time in three games and just the fifth time this season. He accomplished the feat just once in his rookie campaign - on the last day of the season.
"This is one of the best team games we've played all year," Durant said. "We really boxed out on the defensive end. We had a lot of mismatches that we tried to take advantage of and our bigs did a great job of keeping themselves in front of their bigs. That is the effort and game plan we need to win in this league."
The former No. 2 overall pick also dished out six assists.
But he had help on the offensive front - and not just from Green, his fellow first-rounder from two summers ago. Wilcox came off the bench to post 23 points, nine boards, four steals and three blocks.
Kelenna Azubuike kept the Warriors in contention with 24 points off the bench, leading six players in double figures.
"We didn't make shots and we didn't pass like we normally do," Warriors swingman Stephen Jackson said. "We made a lot of mistakes on defense and gave them a lot of easier shots that normally aren't there. We can't make excuses, they were just the better team tonight."
GOLDEN STATE 100
OKLAHOMA CITY 107 FINAL
Dec 31 10:24 PM
GOLDEN STATE 70
OKLAHOMA CITY 78 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 31 9:48 PM
GOLDEN STATE 55
OKLAHOMA CITY 51 HALFTIME
Dec 31 9:08 PM
GOLDEN STATE 28
OKLAHOMA CITY 22 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 31 8:36 PM
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