OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Thabo Sefolosha stood on the sideline, with just 1 second to make a play that would keep the charging Philadelphia 76ers at bay.
With a crosscourt lob to Russell Westbrook for a banked-in layup, the Oklahoma City Thunder's lead was safe until Kevin Durant could provide the finishing touches on a 109-103 victory on Wednesday night.
Durant and Westbrook each scored 31 points and came up with the key baskets down the stretch to stave off the Sixers, who cut an 11-point deficit to three in the fourth quarter.
``So far, I think we've been doing a good job closing down games,' said Sefolosha, who also had a season-high 10 points. ``Every time we're close in the fourth quarter, we've been able to come out on top.'
The Thunder have fallen behind by at least 20 in each of their three losses this season, but have come through in the clutch in each of their four wins so far.
This time, the Thunder's lead had been cut to 99-96 before coach Scott Brooks drew up the inbound play during a timeout with 2:35 to play - and a menacing red ``1' on the shot clock.
Westbrook curled around the right side of the lane and leaped to catch Sefolosha's lob, banking a layup in off the backboard as the buzzer sounded to prevent the Sixers from having the ball with a chance to tie for the first time in the second half.
``That was a terrific pass to Russell and that was a big basket for us with 1 second,' Brooks said. ``Those are tough to overcome.'
After three empty possessions for Oklahoma City, Durant ducked past No. 2 draft pick Evan Turner for a layup and got fouled in the process - even though it was Turner who ended up with a bloody lip. Durant hit the ensuing free throw to make it 104-97 with 44 seconds left, and the Thunder were able to close it out from the free throw line.
``We've just got to be better in those crucial situations, and let's not take anything away. Durant's the leading scorer in the league and Westbrook is unbelievable, so it's not like we got beat by two guys who aren't great, great players,' said Doug Collins, who fell to 2-6 as Philadelphia's coach. ``These guys won gold medals this summer.'
Rookie Jodie Meeks scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the 76ers back. Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand also scored 17 points apiece as the Sixers eclipsed 100 points in a fifth straight game for the first time since December 2005. Holiday had eight of his 11 assists in the first half, then got into foul trouble.
Collins said he told his team that ``every minute you play under pressure is precious because that's what you're going to have to do to be a good team.'
``Basketball is a game of mistakes but you have to minimize them under pressure,' Collins said. ``We had a couple turnovers, loose with the ball, and then those two critical (plays) - the three-point play and then Scotty Brooks drew up a great play, and we did not communicate.'
Philadelphia was without guard Andre Iguodala for a second straight game with Achilles' tendinitis in his right foot and forward Jason Kapono due to personal reasons. Sixth man Lou Williams didn't return after sustaining a left shoulder contusion with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
Still, the Sixers stayed within striking distance throughout and cut the Thunder's lead to 97-94 when Holiday stole the ball from Westbrook and found Meeks open for a 3-pointer on the fast break.
Brand answered Westbrook's 19-footer with a jumper of his own from the foul line to keep the Sixers within three, but then Philadelphia couldn't come up with the 1-second stop it needed.
``We've got to find a way to come out with the victory, and we did a good job of that tonight,' said Westbrook, who had 12 assists and seven turnovers, ``but we're still trying to get better.'
Oklahoma City played without starting power forward Jeff Green for the second straight game with a sprained left ankle, and his backup, Nick Collison, missed a seventh straight game with a stress reaction in his left leg
Without their top two power forwards, the Thunder played extended stretches with a four-guard lineup and also briefly tried teaming centers Nenad Krstic and Cole Aldrich. None of the combinations were able to extend the lead for long.
Durant and Westbrook converted three-point plays on consecutive possessions during an 8-0 burst to make it 79-66 midway through the third quarter and Durant bumped the lead to 14 before the Sixers came back.
Notes: A technical foul assessed against Durant in the Thunder's previous game against Boston was rescinded by the NBA. Replays showed that Paul Pierce was holding onto Durant's arm when the foul was called. ... Durant is one of the nominees for Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks grew up as a Sixers fan and fondly remembers his first time playing inside The Spectrum, which will be demolished on Nov. 23. ``To see the Spectrum for the first time, it was probably one of the best basketball feelings I've had walking on that court and just thinking about all of the childhood memories I had watching that team.'
The Associated Press News Service
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