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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC wins with Kevin Durant and defense

The Thunder won because Kevin Durant scored 46 points and again went wild down the stretch. But the Thunder also won because it turned up the defensive heat.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 21, 2014

Got a call Tuesday afternoon from a Guthrie nursing home. A nice lady said she and her fellow residents just wanted my opinion.

Why is Kendrick Perkins on the Thunder?

I tried to explain it best I could. She seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer.

Then Tuesday night, Perk showed her why. And Thabo Sefolosha did the same, just in case she was wondering about him, too.

The Thunder beat Portland 105-97 in a showdown for the Northwest Division lead, and yes, the Thunder won because Kevin Durant scored 46 points and again went wild down the stretch.

But the Thunder also won because it turned up the defensive heat.

Perkins and Thabo, four-season defensive anchors for the Thunder, seemingly always have to justify their existence in the starting lineup or even on the roster.

Thabo's shooting has slumped this season. Perkins' offense is a nightmare.

But their defensive value trumps their offensive shortcomings. Defense still wins. Defense and Durant is how the Thunder has to survive without Russell Westbrook. It's not a bad plan even with Westbrook.

And the Thunder is an elite defensive team in large part because Perkins and Sefolosha defend the basket with abandon.

Portland was in position to win this game. But the Blazers went six minutes without a field goal and 3 1/2 minutes without a point, droughts ended only by Damian Lilliard's meaningless layup with 20 seconds left.

Meanwhile, Durant scored 11 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes to lead a 15-0 run.

Perkins guarded Blazer phenom LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch — Aldridge had 29 points but missed his final seven shots, all after Perkins returned to the court with 6:17 left in the game.

Earlier, Perk, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison took turns on Aldridge, who was swishing those rainbow jumpers that seem unstoppable no matter the quality of the defense.

But Perkins' physicality clearly bothered Aldridge more than did Ibaka's athletic ability or Collison's technique. Perk is known for his post defense, but he showed he's capable on the perimeter with a sharpshooting big man.

“Perk was really good tonight,” Scotty Brooks said. “Defensively, he's guarding one of the best shotmakers in the game ... did a good job of staying with him.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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