Suns-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 30, 2012
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The Oklahoma City Thunder already have the league's best record. They could be even better if Russell Westbrook starts to consistently hit his shots. Westbrook will try to help the Thunder extend the NBA's longest current home win streak to 12 games Monday night and hand the Phoenix Suns a sixth straight loss overall and ninth in a row on the road. Oklahoma City (23-6) is enjoying its longest home win streak since a 14-game run Jan. 6-March 7. The Thunder are the NBA's highest scoring team at 105.7 points per game with Kevin Durant third in scoring at 28.4 points per game and Westbrook sixth at 21.4. Westbrook's average, however, is his worst over his last three seasons. His 40.3 shooting percentage is his worst since his rookie season. He is hoping his 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting in Saturday's 124-94 rout at Houston will help kick-start him in the right direction. "I felt comfortable," Westbrook said. "It's been the first night all year that I shot the ball well. Now I have to put two games together." Westbrook also added eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals - reasons why Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn't too worried about his star guard's scoring output. "He competes and I keep telling everybody he is one of the best players in this league because he lays it on the line every night," Brooks said. "He doesn't take possessions off and it's not always pretty but he just plays hard every night." Durant was only needed to score 26 points Saturday after averaging 36.8 over his previous four games. The Thunder cruised after building an 18-point halftime lead. Oklahoma City has won six straight over Phoenix (11-20), and these teams have not met this season. Durant is only averaging 22.5 points on 40.5 percent shooting in that run while Westbrook adds 21.8 points and 8.2 assists. Westbrook used to go up against Steve Nash when he played the Suns. Now he will face Goran Dragic, who is not at 100 percent since he is playing with a sore hip. Dragic battled through the pain for 16 points and 12 assists in Saturday's 111-107 loss at Minnesota. The Suns wasted Luis Scola's season-high 33 points. ''These moral victories, or whatever you want to call them, don't do anything because at the end of the day they either put it on the left side or the right side,'' coach Alvin Gentry said. Phoenix is trying to avoid its longest road skid in a single season since a nine-game slide Feb. 17-March 13, 1988. "It's in our head now,'' said Scola, who also grabbed 10 boards. "We've just got to find a way to win games somehow.'' The Suns are the NBA's worst team in 3-point field-goal percentage defense at 40.4 while the Thunder are shooting 40.2 percent from long range for the league's second-best mark. Durant has made 15 of his last 33 attempts from beyond the arc and Kevin Martin 12 of his last 26. Phoenix will have to face an Oklahoma City defense that is blocking a league-best 7.6 shots per game led by Serge Ibaka, who is averaging 3.0 blocks.
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