Kevin Durant broke out in tears Wednesday night in Austin when the Longhorns retired his No. 35 jersey. "I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but once they played the video highlights and unveiled the jersey, I got real emotional,” Durant said. "It was one of the best days of my life. I’ve come a long way. "A lot of people doubted me when I was growing up. A lot of people doubted me and said I wouldn’t be anything at Texas. It feels good to prove all those people wrong and shine some light on the university and Oklahoma City. It was exciting for me and my family.”
DEFENSIVE COMMUNICATIONCoach Scott Brooks has emphasized defense, but statistically the Thunder has regressed since Desmond Mason suffered a season-ending injury. There was improvement Tuesday night against the Lakers, but Oklahoma City has allowed 113.0 points a game in February. "One thing we need to get better at is communicating,” Durant said. "That goes a long way on the defensive end, just talking, let guys know they have help. In this league, you can’t guard any player one-on-one. Everybody can score at this level.”
TOUGH MONTHThe Thunder closes February with back-to-back road games. With eight games against playoff caliber teams, February figured to be the toughest month of the season. Oklahoma City is 2-8 this month after going 7-7 in January. "If we want to be a playoff team (in the future), we have to be able to beat those teams,” said Nick Collison. "We’re a long way from it right now, but we can’t look at the schedule and give up on these games. We have to get some of them.”
NOWITZKI FACTORDirk Nowitzki, Dallas’s eight-time All-Star, scored 46 points in a 103-99 win over the Thunder on Dec. 13 at American Airlines Center. It’s the most points scored against Oklahoma City all season. Nowitzki was 17-of-30 from the field, 10-of-10 at the line. "His best games are when he’s getting to the line a lot,” Collison said. "He’s tough to stop if he’s got the jumper going, because you have to crowd him and then he’s good at putting it on the floor and getting into you. We have to pick him up in transition. A lot of times he’ll trail on the break and you forget about him.” Brooks said Jeff Green will be the primary defender on Nowitzki. At 6-foot-7, Thabo Sefolosha is a perimeter defender but has a long enough wing span that he might get some opportunities on Nowitzki.
FAST BREAKRiding a six-game losing streak, Oklahoma City is tied with Washington for second-fewest wins (13) ahead of Sacramento (12). ... Russell Westbrook leads the end-of-practice free throw competition in February. Several players are within range of facing Westbrook in the finals on Monday. Earl Watson won in January, Durant in December... The Thunder has moved up to 20th in field goal percentage (45.0) and is 17th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7). BY MIKE BALDWIN