Pistons at Thunder Game Preview - Mar. 11, 2011
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The Oklahoma City Thunder have enjoyed plenty of success against Eastern Conference foes, while the Detroit Pistons have been awful on the road against the West.
The Thunder will likely be heavily favored Friday night when they try to hand the Pistons a 10th straight road loss to a West opponent.
Oklahoma City (40-23) improved to 17-6 versus the East with a 110-105 overtime win at Philadelphia on Wednesday. That's the second-best record of any West team behind NBA-leading San Antonio's 21-6 mark.
Detroit (23-42), meanwhile, saw its struggles on the road continue with a 111-104 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday. The Pistons turned in their worst defensive performance of the season, allowing San Antonio to shoot 64.3 percent.
The Thunder have taken four straight in the series, winning 105-104 on Oct. 29 on the road. Jeff Green made the go-ahead layup with 2.5 seconds left after the Pistons focused their defense on Kevin Durant, who scored 30.
Green is no longer with Oklahoma City, which is 4-3 since he was traded in the deal that brought Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder on Feb. 24.
Durant provided the clutch shots Wednesday, erasing a five-point deficit with a minute left in regulation by hitting a runner and a 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime. He finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds, and leads the league with 28.3 points per game.
"It looked bad for a minute, but we stayed with it and made some shots," Durant said.
Mohammed has started the last five games at center with Perkins yet to make his Thunder debut due to a sprained left MCL. Reserve Nick Collison came through with 13 points and 10 rebounds in nearly 32 minutes.
"We played some different lineups tonight, sometimes with four guards and sometimes with two bigs and they both worked well," Collison said. "We're finding different ways to compete and win games."
The four-guard lineup has been working well in large part because of how Russell Westbrook is playing. He's averaging 27.0 points and 52.1 percent shooting over his last five games for the Thunder, 9-2 at home against the East.
The Pistons are tied with Toronto for the worst field-goal percentage defense in the league at 48.3. Wednesday's effort was evidence of why, as the Spurs made their first 14 shots and scored 40 points in the first quarter.
"We didn't defend well at all," forward Tayshaun Prince said. "We were late on our rotations and other things in that first half."
Tracy McGrady had 15 points and nine assists. He started at point guard, with Rodney Stuckey moving to the bench.
"We're looking to mix and match all the time," coach John Kuester said. "We're always searching to see who's going to give us the most in certain spots and situations. I thought Tracy was outstanding. His leadership and the way he controlled the game was outstanding."
Stuckey had started his previous 10 games, averaging 20.1 points and 6.0 assists over the last seven. He went 1 of 5 for three points and had one assist Wednesday.