Rested Thunder beats the Jazz 111-85

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: February 14, 2012

Finally, the tone was once again set in the first 12 minutes.

Though the Thunder has won in myriad ways this season, no formula is more proven than a sizzling start, characterized of course by shut-down defense.

Oklahoma City cruised to its most lopsided win of the season, a 111-85 rout of Utah, on Tuesday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena largely because the Thunder reverted to being an overpowering team in the opening quarter.

The Thunder raced to a 16-4 lead after forcing the Jazz into missing 15 of their first 16 shots. Utah's second field goal didn't come until center Al Jefferson scored on a putback with 4:50 remaining in the first period.

By the time the horn sounded on the opening period, Utah had registered just 19 points on 8-for-26 shooting (30.8 percent). It was the first time in 11 games that the Thunder held an opponent to 20 points or less in the first quarter.

“That's been an issue the last five or six games, teams scoring in the 30s or high 20s,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

The Thunder had yielded an average of 28.4 first-quarter points in the previous 10 games before Tuesday. On five occasions over that span, OKC gave up at least 30 points, including an even 30 to this same Utah team the last time out on Friday in Salt Lake City.

“The last few games, we had some lapses and we didn't play as well as we wanted to,” said Kevin Durant, who scored 21 points with six rebounds. “We may have gotten some wins, but we kind of squeaked those out. But tonight was Thunder basketball; defense first, hustling, rebounding, helping each other out on the defensive end and playing together. I think we got some fast-break points as well. So we got back to our brand of basketball, and it feels good to be back.”

The Thunder bumped its league-best record to 22-6 after never trailing and notching its third wire-to-wire win this season. Oklahoma City also never trailed against Phoenix and New Orleans.

But more significantly, in what could be a blueprint for how to sustain that success, the Thunder moved to 6-2 when holding opponents to 20 points or less in the first period. In those six victories, the Thunder has won by an average margin of 10.4 points, the last two blowouts coming by at least 20 points — this one besting the 20-point win over Detroit from Jan. 23 that had previously stood as OKC's largest margin of victory.

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