03 March 2011
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The Oklahoma City Thunder snapped their longest losing streak of the season of three games last night by defeating the Indiana Pacers, 113-89. But it was what took place in the third quarter that had Thunder fans holding their collective breath.
While driving to the hoop, Kevin Durant stepped on Pacers' forward Tyler Hansbrough's foot and immediately called for a sub and limped directly to the locker room. He did not return, and his status for Friday night's game at the Atlanta Hawks is up in the air as of now. The team is calling it a sprained ankle as of this morning.
Even in less than three quarters of play, Durant finished the game tied with Russell Westbrook with 21 points each. They were the only two starters who finished in double figures in scoring, but the reserves played a big role in last night's blowout victory.
James Harden finished with 20 points, while Daequan Cook contributed with 12 of his own.
When this team is balanced, they are very dangerous.
And perhaps a positive note is that they looked so good last night, and are still awaiting the debut of Kendrick Perkins, who is now here for the long haul after signing a four year contract extension.
The Thunder are hoping to put their recent three game skid behind them, but considering the opponents who defeated them, they were not bad losses. Oklahoma City did get blown out at Orlando while they were shorthanded following their two trades, but they were in the game at San Antonio and narrowly forced overtime against the Los Angeles Lakers. Just think how big of a difference that Perkins will make.
The thing that Thunder fans will notice most is the change in attitude, especially on defense.
As it is, Serge Ibaka has finally moved into the starting lineup, where he finished with 7 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks against the Pacers last night. Nazr Mohammed is keeping the center position warm until Perkins is ready, and he finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds in limited action. He will be a great addition as Perkins' back-up in a couple of weeks.
But once Perkins joins this team, everyone in the Western Conference will officially be on notice. Perkins knows how to defend Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. He will be a much more physical presence against players such as Zach Randolph, Lamarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan. He will block shots inside and grab plenty of big rebounds.
Right now, the Thunder rank 5th in points and 8th in rebounds per game. They are only 20th in points allowed per game. They will gladly watch their scoring go down while the defense improves.
That would finally mean that they will be playing Thunder basketball.
Now, if we can just make sure that players can stay healthy.
* Make sure to follow kelley on Twitter @RobKelley24...
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