OKC Thunder notebook: Success against Eastern Conference teams continues

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: January 14, 2012
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Saturday's 104-92 romp over the New York Knicks gives the Thunder a 24-8 (.750) record against Eastern Conference teams the past two seasons.

Asked if his team seemed to be more fired up playing against teams from the East, OKC coach Scott Brooks smiled and deadpanned: "I've never put it on the board. I've never done my 'West Coast' signs. We've had success against the East. I can't tell you why. We approach every game with same type of scouting, same type of preparation. Energy is always a factor of us winning games or not. We've done good job in these areas (when playing against East teams)."

Now 2-0 against the East this season (Orlando was the previous victory), the Thunder face four straight Eastern teams in the next week with road games at Boston, Washington and New Jersey and a home game against Detroit on Jan. 23.

OKC went 22-8 against the East last season (second best behind San Antonio's 23-7) and swept eight teams, but shockingly got swept by Toronto (22-60).

FOURTH-QUARTER FLOP

A dreadful fourth quarter blew up what had been an impressive stat sheet through three quarters for the Thunder.

With non-starters playing in the entire fourth quarter, OKC was outscored 27-12, shot 3 for 17 (.176) from the field, 0 for 4 from 3-point range, 6 for 9 (.667) from the free-throw line, was outrebounded 16-7, outscored 14-4 in the paint, had six turnovers and one assist.

Through three quarters, the Thunder led 92-65, shot 31 for 54 (.574) from the field, 7 for 14 from 3-point range (.500), 23 for 25 from the line (.920), outrebounded the Knicks 33-32, outscored them 34-26 in the paint, had 17 assists, nine blocked shots, nine steals and 15 turnovers.

Asked how much the fourth quarter mattered in the grand scheme of things, Brooks said: "I really believe all minutes should be played hard and played well. It doesn't matter what the score is. You're trying to earn more minutes, but we didn't play well as a group in that last quarter. You look at it, you talk about it and then you have to move on. You can't dwell on it. You have to look for ways to get better, and we will find ways."

COLD THEN HOT

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook opened the game 0 for 5 from the field in less than seven minutes and then hit his next six shots.

He finished 6 for 12 from the floor, which included a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left in the second quarter to give OKC a 70-47 halftime lead. Westbrook had 21 points, eight assists (all in the first half), eight rebounds and three steals.

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