During his team's morning shoot-around in preparation for Friday night's home game against Phoenix, Thunder coach Scott Brooks had a warning for his players.
“Guys, we have four more games before the break,” Brooks said he told his troops. “Let's not worry about the other three. Just focus on tonight's game.”
OKC (38-12) posted a convincing 127-96 victory over the Suns before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“When some teams get closer to the All-Star break, they tend to relax,” said Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who had 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block in 25 minutes. “We just want to pick it up.”
OKC should have no trouble looking ahead to All-Star break given what awaits — two road games and then the world champion Miami Heat at The Peake next Thursday before having a five-day break.
“That is the fear around the league,” Brooks said of teams looking ahead to the respite. “No question it's a well-deserved break for all players and coaches and organizations, but you can't look ahead. If you do, you stub your toe. It's hard enough to win in this league, but if you're not focused on the game, it's impossible to win. We haven't had that problem and hopefully it doesn't happen.”
Phoenix (17-34) starters combined for just 30 points while the Suns bench scored 66 and was led by Michael Beasley with 25 points (10 for 16 from the field; 3 for 4 on 3-pointers) and seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, all 13 players scored for OKC. Thunder starters scored 82 points and shot 58.5 percent (31 for 53) from the field while the OKC bench scored 45 points and shot 55.9 percent (19 for 34) from the floor.
The Thunder also shot 66.7 percent (14 for 21) from 3-point range.
The teams meet again Sunday at 7 p.m. in Phoenix.
Westbrook and former teammate James Harden will reunite while representing the Western Conference in the Shooting Stars competition next Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Shooting Stars features one current NBA player, one current WNBA player and an NBA legend on each team. There are six numbered shooting locations of increasing difficulty, with each team attempting to make all shots in numeric order in the fastest time. Each team will select a specific player rotation to follow throughout the competition. Each shot must be made before the next player begins shooting in succession. Teams have up to two minutes to complete the entire shooting course.
Also representing the West will be Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm's Tina Thompson, plus former NBA players Sam Cassell and Robert Horry, who played a combined 31 seasons in the league and won 10 NBA championships. Cassell and Horry were teammates on a Houston Rockets team that won back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Representing the Eastern Conference are Miami's Chris Bosh and Brooklyn's Brook Lopez, Chicago's Swin Cash and Indiana's Tamika Catchings of the WNBA and former players Muggsy Bogues and Dominique Wilkins.
With three lopsided victories against Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix, Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins went the entire week without playing a single second in the fourth quarter. … OKC has now won seven straight at home and is 23-3 at The Peake this season. Its last loss was Jan. 2 against Brooklyn. … The Thunder is now: 11-1 on Fridays; 18-0 when it shoots 50-plus percent from the field; 17-1 when five-plus players score in double-figures; 12-1 with 10 or more blocks; 16-3 with 10 or more steals; 26-6 against Western Conference teams.
Beasley on whether Friday's loss felt worse than normal: “Every loss is disheartening, but by that many points, that's embarrassing … that adds a little more. That (where OKC is) is where we want to be in the near future.”
BY JOHN ROHDE