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 Durant, Green lift Thunder to rare win over Knicks

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PostSubject: Durant, Green lift Thunder to rare win over Knicks   Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:00 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY(AP) What appeared to be a
lopsided victory turned into a nail-biter, but the Oklahoma City
Thunder didn't complain.Wins have been rare this season for the
Thunder, so they wanted to celebrate after holding off the New York
Knicks 107-99 on Tuesday night - after nearly blowing a 23-point,
second-half lead."We showed a lot of character,'' said Oklahoma
City forward Kevin Durant, who had 27 points and 12 rebounds. "They
came back and got within two but we continued to work hard and kept our
composure and fought on the defensive end and got some key scores.''Jeff
Green added 27 points for Oklahoma City (5-30), which shot 52.7 percent
from the field and won for the second time in three games. The loss
came on a 3-pointer by Denver's Carmelo Anthony with 0.1 seconds left.The
crowd at the Ford Center, nearly silent after the loss to the Nuggets,
cheered loudly as Thunder players and coaches exited the floor after
beating the Knicks."This is why I, the fans and the city love
this team,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "They never give
up. Tonight we battled and fought hard and closed out tonight's game in
the fourth quarter.''Al Harrington scored 21 points and Chris
Duhon added 18 for the Knicks (13-20), who were coming off a victory
over defending NBA champion Boston. New York, which beat the Thunder by
10 points on Nov. 14, shot 39.8 percent.Russell Westbrook added
22 points and nine assists for Oklahoma City. David Lee had 14 points
and 13 rebounds for the Knicks, his 20th double-double in the last 22
games and his 23rd of the season."We dug ourselves a hole and
tried to climb our way out of it and just came up short,'' Harrington
said. "No disrespect to those guys, but we were supposed to win this
game.''The Knicks, playing the first of a four-game swing
against Western Conference foes, trailed by as many as 23 points in the
third quarter but rallied within 93-91 with 8:21 left on two free
throws by Wilson Chandler.Oklahoma City turned to its leading
scorer, Durant, who hit two free throws, then followed with a driving
bucket. Joe Smith's 14-foot jumper with 6:03 left put the Thunder up
99-91.Nate Robinson's two free throws cut the gap to 102-99 with
1:01 left, but Westbrook assisted Desmond Mason on a reverse layup with
41 seconds left.The Knicks missed three 3-point attempts after
that, with Durant hitting two free throws and Westbrook going 1-of-2
from the line in the final 29 seconds."If you keep fighting, good things will happen ... and we did that tonight,'' Brooks said.New
York coach Mike D'Antoni said the Knicks didn't play with the same
intensity in the first half that allowed them to beat the Celtics
100-88 on Sunday."It's a learning process, learning how to win
two, four or 10 games in a row,'' D'Antoni said. "It's having that
mentality that nothing else matters for the next two hours.''Mason
had 13 points and three blocked shots, while Smith - returning after
missing three games with a left knee contusion - blocked four shots.
The Knicks had no blocked shots.Mason scored seven points and
Green added two 3-pointers during a 22-4 run in the first quarter that
put Oklahoma City ahead 29-15."That was about as well as we could play on both ends of the court,'' Brooks said.The Knicks closed within four points twice in the second quarter, but the Thunder rebuilt their lead to 63-50 by halftime.The
Thunder posted their second-highest scoring first half of the season,
one point shy of what they scored in the 122-120 loss to Denver on
Friday. Durant and Westbrook each had 17 points in the half.The
Knicks missed their first eight shots of the second half as Oklahoma
City built its lead to 79-56, its largest of the season. After a
fast-break layup by Durant put the Thunder ahead 83-62, a frustrated
D'Antoni called his first timeout of the game.The Knicks
responded, as three 3-pointers by Harrington keyed a 17-8 run that
pulled New York within 91-79 entering the fourth quarter."We
didn't have the intensity in the first half,'' D'Antoni said. "You have
to play as hard as we did in the second half. I was really glad that we
responded and made a game of it, but when that happens, you have to
have everything go right for you right down to the end. We didn't have
everything go right for us and we lost.''Notes: New York center
Eddy Curry, out all season with a knee injury, isn't far from
returning. D'Antoni said Curry has practiced twice but needs more
practice time before playing in a game. He said Curry probably will be
listed as day-to-day by Wednesday or Thursday, when the Knicks visit
the Dallas Mavericks ... New Thunder center Nenad Krstic participated
in warm-ups but didn't play. Brooks said Krstic, signed as a free agent
last week, is learning the Thunder's system quickly and could see
action as soon as Wednesday, when Oklahoma City visits Minnesota. ...
Thunder forward Nick Collison sat out for the sixth time in seven games
with a left thumb fracture, but said he should return by the end of the
week.

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