Although the Oklahoma City Thunder win a majority of their games behind a high-powered offense led by All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, coach Scott Brooks wants his team to put some extra emphasis on the defensive end.
They seemingly shouldn't have much trouble with that request against the offensively challenged Phoenix Suns in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
The Thunder (37-12) average a league-best 106.2 points, with Durant leading all scorers at 29.3 per game and Westbrook ranking seventh at 22.6. The team put together one of its better offensive showings Wednesday in a 119-98 victory over Golden State.
Durant had 25 points, Westbrook scored 22 and Kevin Martin added 21 as Oklahoma City won consecutive games for the first time in nearly three weeks after alternating wins and losses for the previous eight contests.
While the Thunder's offense led the way, the defense limited the Warriors to 19 points in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City has won 28 straight games when holding opponents to 98 points or fewer.
"I'm looking for us to just continue to bring the effort on the defensive end," Brooks said. "I've always felt with our guys as the season has gone and the years have gone by that offensively we're going to keep improving in that area but we wanted to focus on defense."
Although Brooks is looking for another strong showing from his defense, he wouldn't mind if Oklahoma City's offense continues to have its way with Phoenix. The Thunder are averaging 112.0 points while winning the last eight in the series - two this season.
In the last meeting Jan. 14, Durant and Westbrook combined for 47 of the Thunder's 51 points after halftime in a 102-90 road victory. Durant finished with 41 while Westbrook had 36.
Clamping down defensively also shouldn't be a problem for the Thunder, who've won 18 of 19 at home while the Suns have dropped 16 of 19 on the road.
Phoenix (17-33) is averaging 91.9 points while cracking triple digits just once over its last 19 games overall, including both losses to Oklahoma City. The Suns sputtered down the stretch in Wednesday's 93-84 loss at New Orleans, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points.
"Tough, tough loss for us," said interim coach Lindsey Hunter, who is 4-5 since taking over for Alvin Gentry on Jan. 20. "Not many positives can be taken from the game. Like I said, I am discouraged but I am still encouraged because I know where we are going to be and I know how we are going to do it."
Hunter's vision probably requires better shooting from the perimeter. The Suns were 1 of 15 on 3-point attempts Wednesday, and are shooting 25.0 percent from beyond the arc in their last six games.
Center Marcin Gortat has been on target, hitting 15 of 20 from the field in his last two contests. He has also posted a pair of double-doubles against Oklahoma City this season, averaging 15.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
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