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OKC THUNDER: Closing the door has been the key

Thunder has learned how to finish games, and that has OKC atop the Western Conference
By John Rohde, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 6, 2012

“It's a great thing to be able to raise your level of intensity down the stretch of games and be able to make enough shots to win,” OKC veteran forward Nick Collison said Tuesday. “It seems like we always find a way to pull it out.”

The Thunder is reaping the rewards of acquiring scowling Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins at last season's trade deadline (Feb. 24, 2011).

Perkins dropped 32 pounds and fully rehabbed two ailing knees during the offseason. He seems healthy and (mostly) happy, which can be a wicked combination from OKC's minister of defense.

Perkins admitted he was pleased with how the Thunder closed out Monday's game against Dallas, but wants to see similar execution far more frequently and much earlier in the game.

“You know what, that was good for us, but at the same time we need to start the game like that,” Perkins said. “We need to play 48 minutes of consistent defense. I don't ever care about the offensive end for us because we're going to always score the ball, but defensively we need to do a better job of playing 48 minutes.”

Perkins isn't alone in his thoughts. Teammates and coaches feel the same.

“I'd love to see a game where we can really put in a dominant defensive performance start to finish and get more games like that to where that's more of our habit and we're not always having to rely on the fourth quarter and making great plays down the stretch,” Collison said. “It's great that we've been able to do that, but our overall level of play needs to be higher going into the playoffs.”

Brooks said: “In the fourth quarter, it's always about getting stops. Every coach preaches that, but it's great that we do it and we're pretty consistent with it.”


Thunder vs. Suns

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)

Mobile: newsok.com/gameday

Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM

Three things to know

* The Thunder defeated the Suns, 107-97, on Dec. 31 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder led by as many as 24 points and never trailed in that game. No starter played in the fourth quarter.

* The Thunder has won 13 straight home games and is 16-1 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. This is the second game in a string of five straight at home.

* Russell Westbrook has committed only five turnovers in the past three games.

Projected starters

Thunder (30-8)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Pts.;Reb.;Ast.

G;Russell Westbrook;6-3;23.7;4.9;5.5

G;Daequan Cook;6-5;5.9;2.6;0.3

F;Kevin Durant;6-9;28.1;7.9;3.3

F;Serge Ibaka;6-10;8.2;7.5;0.4

C;Kendrick Perkins;6-10;4.4;6.5;0.9

Suns (17-20)

Pos.;Player;Ht.;Pts.;Reb.;Ast.

G;Steve Nash;6-3;13.8;3.1;10.9

G;Jared Dudley;6-7;12.1;4.2;1.9

F;Grant Hill;6-8;10.1;3.4;2.2

F;Channing Frye;6-11;9.7;6.1;1.0

C;Marcin Gortat;6-11;15.9;10.6;1.0

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