Notebook: Thunder 97-69

Posted Feb 10, 2013 11:49 PM

By Mike Tulumello, For

THE FACTS: The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to do their part in the race for the NBA's best record, beating the Phoenix Suns 97-69 Sunday night. The visiting Thunder remained one-half game behind San Antonio by cruising to an easy win.

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder (39-12) with 24 points, while Thabo Sefolosha had 20 points. Kevin Durant had 18 points.

The once high-scoring Suns (17-35) were so ineffective against the Thunder's defense that they had only 21 baskets against 19 turnovers after three quarters. They didn't even hit 50 points until 7:50 remained in the game. With 67 points, they appeared to be a lock for scoring the fewest points in franchise history as the final seconds wound down; the record is 68 set in 1981 vs. Kansas City.

Then, the Thunder's DeAndre Liggins turned the ball over and Wesley Johnson slammed home a follow shot with 7.8 seconds left against a Thunder team that was about to start congratulating each other.

For the Suns, Markieff Morris (12 points) became the only player to manage double figures by hitting a 3-pointer with 5:48 left. Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin missed the game with flu-like symptoms. The Thunder drew only seven fouls, setting a franchise-low for a Suns' opponent. The previous record was eight, set vs. Detroit on March 27, 1975.

QUOTABLE: "I'll take the defensive game. ... Any time you can hold an NBA team to three straight quarters of under 20 points [the Suns had 16, 18 and 14 to start the game], that's a lot of good defensive intensity."

-- Thunder coach Scott Brooks

QUOTABLE II: ""We want to have the homecourt advantage but, right now, we want to focus on how we can be better. ... I hope we can play so well we don't have to play in the fourth quarter [every night].

-- Kevin Durant

THE STAT: The Suns avoided the lowest point total in their 45-season history, covering more than 3,600 games, only when the Thunder threw the ball away then allowed the Suns to score in the final seconds. "I've seen worse," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said.

TURNING POINT: When the teams took the floor. The Suns simply don't have the firepower to compete with the Thunder over 48 minutes.

QUOTABLE III: "We're playing at a high level at both ends of the floor."

-- Scott Brooks

HOT: Sefolosha shot 7-for-11, 5-for-7 on 3-pointers. "I'm shooting with confidence," he said. "I'm not truing to put any extra pressure on myself."

NOT: The Suns shot just 30-for-91, 4-for-14 on 3-pointers. Jared Dudley, their starting off guard, failed to score.

IN THE ARENA: The boos are becoming more frequent whenever Michael Beasley enters or leaves the game. Before Sunday's game, he had averaged averaged 16.1 points in the 10 games since the Suns changed from Alvin Gentry to Hunter as the coach. But he gained more local attention recently with an automotive misadventure in Scottsdale when he was charged with speeding and driving without a license. On Sunday, he shot just 2-for-11 with four points. He had eight rebounds but also four turnovers.

ROOKIE WATCH: Kendall Marshall has replaced Sebastian Telfair as the Suns' backup point guard, so the Suns can get a good look at their much-criticized, first-round selection from last year. Results have been mixed. Over these past six games when he's been in the rotation, Marshall is averaging 4.3 points on 45 percent shooting, 2.8 assists and 1.5 turnovers. Perhaps the most troubling season-long stat: Marshall, because he seldom looks to score, has shot just four free throws in 194 minutes of action.

FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: The Suns' Marcin Gortat averaged just 4.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the back-to-back games vs. the Thunder.

NOTABLE: Goran Dragic is one of two NBA players who leads his team in points (14.3), assists (6.4), steals (1.41) and free throws (200). The other is LeBron James. All these numbers for Dragic are career highs.

UP NEXT: For the Thunder, Tuesday @ Utah, Thursday vs. Heat, Wednesday, Feb. 20, @ Houston. For the Suns, Tuesday @ Los Angeles Lakers, Tuesday, Feb. 19 @ Portand and Wednesday, Feb. 20 @ Golden State.