Portland Trail Blazers guard Andre Miller (24) drives on Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010. AP PHOTO
The All-Star break will give us some rest. But as soon as it’s over we’ve got to come back and get to work because it’s the second half of the season.”
After Harden gave the Thunder a cushion, Durant supplied three daggers inside the final three minutes to keep the lead at double digits. Combined with another solid fourth quarter defensive effort, OKC’s lead was never in jeopardy the final eight minutes.
“Let’s face it, (Brandon) Roy is out. It’s a completely different team with all the injuries they’ve had, losing their two big fellas,” Brooks said. “We got them on a good night... But our defense at the start of the fourth quarter was good, about as good as we can possibly play.”
Even with Roy sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Trail Blazers knocked off playoff-caliber teams like Dallas and San Antonio the past week.
“Brandon Roy is an All-Star. He’s a great player,” Durant said. “But they’ve still been winning games. It feels really good to come in here and win. James did a good job of making it easier for myself to come in and try to close the game out.”
How hot has Oklahoma City been?
The Thunder is 17-7 since a win on Dec. 23 in Phoenix. Six losses after the holidays were frustrating down-to-the-wire decisions to San Antonio, Dallas, Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans and Milwaukee (overtime).
Get a key basket in half those losses and OKC wasn’t that far away from a 20-4 run since Christmas.
Despite some late-game heartbreaks, the resilient Thunder have used a six-game winning streak to climb within a half-game of No. 5 Phoenix, 1/12 games behind No. 4 Dallas and 21/2 games behind No. 3 Utah.
Meanwhile, the Thunder is starting to put a little distance between themselves and other playoff contenders. Oklahoma City is three games in front of No. 9 Houston, 31/2 in front of No. 10 New Orleans and four games in front of No. 10 Memphis.
“We’ve done a pretty good job the first 50 games or so,” Brooks said. “But there’s still a lot of basketball left. We can’t sit back and relax. We’ve got to keep getting better.”