Posted December 31, 2011 on AP on Fox
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Russell Westbrook scored 18 points, Daequan Cook hit four 3-pointers in quick succession to help Oklahoma City pull away in the first half and the Thunder led wire to wire in a 107-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night. The Thunder improved to 5-0 and remained perfect in four New Year's Eve home games that have become a tradition since the franchise moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City. Two nights after his buzzer-beater against Dallas, Kevin Durant had only 12 points in his bid to become the first player since Michael Jordan a quarter-century earlier to score at least 30 in the first five games of a season. Hakim Warrick and rookie Markieff Morris had 15 points apiece for the Suns, who shot just 40 percent. Oklahoma City led from the outset, getting a two-handed dunk from Serge Ibaka just after the opening tip and scoring the first seven points. The lead grew to 17-5 after Westbrook's steal and two-handed breakaway dunk just over 5 1/2 minutes in. Channing Frye answered with a right-handed putback jam at the other end to get Phoenix going, and the Suns closed within 23-22 after Robin Lopez's two free throws to complete a 10-2 run. That was the only time it would be close. Nick Collison hit a runner at the other end, and Oklahoma City's reserves started to take over after the quarter break. Cook hit four 3-pointers in a 5-minute span and Collison and Nazr Mohammed both had two-handed slams during a 22-6 push that extended the lead to 54-35. The Thunder led by 14 at halftime, despite only two first-half points from Durant, and only let Phoenix get closer than that a couple times in the final 5 minutes, when both teams had reserves playing in garbage time. Durant's 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds left in the third quarter bumped Oklahoma City's edge to 89-67 and the Thunder's starters remained on the bench throughout the final period as everyone got to play. Lazar Hayward, picked up in a preseason trade with Minnesota, and first-round pick Reggie Jackson each got their first playing time of the season. Hayward scored his first points with Oklahoma City on a right-handed, fast-break dunk. Jackson got his first pro bucket on a baseline drive for a layup. Thabo Sefolosha also scored 12 points, Collison added 11 and James Harden had 10 points and matched his career high with eight assists for Oklahoma City. The Suns continued a dreadful offensive start to the season, missing 18 of their first 22 attempts from 3-point range. They came in making an NBA-worst 24 percent from behind the arc and only managed to improve on it by making all four of their 3-point tries in the fourth quarter. Phoenix was fourth in the NBA last season by making 38 percent of its 3-pointers. Coach Alvin Gentry said before the game that roster changes and a shortened preseason have allowed him to install only a small portion of his offense and it showed. Jared Dudley scored 14 points and Marcin Gortat added 12 for a starting five that didn't provide much scoring punch. The Thunder have held their first five opponents to under 45 percent shooting, and the Suns were the third opponent to make less than 40 percent. ''We have not been able to do a lot of the stuff that we anticipated doing,'' Gentry said. ''Obviously, we've got some of the core guys but you're talking about second-unit guys and things like that. We haven't been able to do nearly as much as we would like to. ''From a playbook standpoint, we've probably put a third in as opposed to what we would have done in a normal situation.'' NOTES: Gentry complimented Durant for making a ''phenomenal'' game-winning buzzer-beater two nights earlier but also said ''those guys did a really good job of getting him open, even if it was an illegal screen.'' Video replays showed Kendrick Perkins and James Harden both set moving screens to get Durant open. Counterpart Scott Brooks only chuckled and said, ''Both picks were good.''... The Thunder's previous New Year's Eve wins were against Golden State in 2008, Utah in 2009 and Atlanta in 2010. ... Hinder guitarist Mark Long played the national anthem.
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