TNT analyst and former NBA star Charles Barkley disagreed with the call that sent Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison to the line Thursday night against Utah, suggesting officials should swallow their whistles in those situations. Collison sank both free throws as the Thunder beat the Jazz by one point in the Ford Center. Barkley had glowing comments on the Thunder, nevertheless. On Kevin Durant being in the All-Star Game: "If he’s not an All-Star, I’m not going.” On the Thunder’s three young stars: "Let me tell you something. (Durant), Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, they are the new triplets.”
DURANT SHOOTS FOR RECORDKevin Durant will be gunning for the franchise record for consecutive 30-point games tonight in Milwaukee. Durant is tied with Spencer Haywood at six. Although Durant was born 16 years after Haywood set the record in 1972, the young Thunder star said he is familiar with Haywood. "It’s a great honor,” Durant said. "I’ve just got to get back to work and thank my teammates for trusting me, getting me the ball.”
COLLISON’S HEROICSNick Collison said he can’t remember a game he sank two free throws, at any level, to win a game like he did Thursday night. Collison made both attempts with 4.5 seconds left, the difference in an 87-86 win over Utah. "I’m pretty sure it’s my first time in the NBA,” Collison said. "There was a game with the Clippers once where I hit two late to put us up four. I also hit the last points ever in Key Arena that put us up four. But I don’t ever remember making two to take the lead at the end.”
TURNOVER REDUCTIONEntering Thursday’s game, the Thunder had committed 14 or fewer turnovers in eight consecutive games, the longest streak in more than six years. The streak ended with 19 turnovers against Utah. "Utah is physical,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "They get their hands on a lot of balls and bodies. We didn’t do a good job of finding ways to counter that. Give them credit. That’s how they play.” One reason the Thunder’s turnovers have been down the past two weeks is Russell Westbrook, among the league leaders in turnovers (3.2), has trimmed his average to 1.9 the past nine games.
ELECTRIC ATMOSPHEREWith 4.5 seconds left, and with the Jazz getting ready to inbound the ball, Brooks looked up at the crowd and cracked an ear-to-ear smile. After Ronnie Price missed a shot, extending the winning streak to five, 2010 balloons were released from the Ford Center ceiling. "Our crowd brings it every night,” Brooks said. "It’s amazing how much energy they bring. They help us win games.”
FAST BREAK. . .The Thunder is limiting opponents to 40.2 percent shooting in the fourth quarter in their 18 wins. ... OKC is 8-1 when Westbrook dishes out 10 or more assists. ... The win over Utah was just the fourth all season when OKC doesn’t reach the century mark. The Thunder is 14-1 when they score 100 points. ... The team practiced for nearly an hour Friday before leaving for Milwaukee.