Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Thunder Play To Win Regular-Season Finale

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[April 17, 2014]  OKLAHOMA CITY  Heading into the final game of the regular season, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks did not want to hear anything about a night off.

With his team riding a two-game losing streak and fighting for playoff positioning, he treated it like a playoff game.

That proved to be the right decision as the Thunder rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 112-111 on Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The win secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference for the Thunder (59-23), who will open the playoffs at 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"If teams are angling that want to play us, that's great," Brooks said. "We are open to playing any team come Saturday. We are excited about the opportunity. We wanted to get healthy and we're healthy. Going into the postseason, that's what you want. Our guys are ready."

With Oklahoma City trailing by eight and looking anything but playoff ready, forward Kevin Durant began to take over offensively. He scored 15 of the Thunder's first 19 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 42. That included a drive down the lane in which he dunked on Detroit forward Kyle Singler.


"He just started attacking," Detroit forward Greg Monroe said of Durant. "I think he didn't settle in the fourth. I think everything was at the rim. He hit a couple of pullups, but I think he just started attacking. Once a guy that good gets into attack mode, it's going to be hard for anyone to stop him."

However, the Thunder were not making up any ground. The Pistons (29-53) matched them shot for shot. Detroit guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, center Andre Drummond and Monroe always seemed to have an answer.

But with 4:02 left in the game, Drummond fouled out, leaving the paint open for the Thunder to attack.

With 1:32 left, Oklahoma City cut the lead to three on a Durant layup. Detroit guard Brandon Jennings threw up a 30-footer that was off the mark and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was fouled going for a loose ball. He made two free throws to close gap to 111-110.

After Thunder guard Derek Fisher blocked Caldwell-Pope's shot at the rim, Durant missed an easy putback on the other end that would have given the Thunder the lead.

"I don't how he did it," Brooks said of Fisher's block. "You guys were probably just as in awe as I was."

Oklahoma City got the ball back on a turnover with 18 seconds left. After a timeout, Durant got the ball on the wing and drove to the basket for a go-ahead dunk.

Detroit was unable to get a clean shot off in the final seconds and Oklahoma City held on.

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Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field. Drummond added 22 points and 13 rebounds. Monroe had 22 points and nine assists. Singler finished with 20 points.

"(Monroe) did a very good job in the post," Detroit coach John Loyer said. "I thought he was very unselfish when they came to double him. Greg was fabulous."

Durant scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook finished with 22 points, eight assists, six steals and six rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 15 points. Forward Serge Ibaka added 10 points, 15 boards and eight blocked shots.

"Everyone pitched in and gave us a chance to win 59 games and have the second seed," Brooks said. "With that being said, I'm not overly thrilled at the way we played tonight. But we made winning basketball plays down the stretch."

NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant led NBA in minutes and points for third time in his career. The only others to do so that often were Wilt Chamberlain (six times) and Michael Jordan (three times). ... The Detroit Pistons ended the season with four players sitting out with injuries. F Josh Smith, G Will Bynum, G Chauncey Billups and C Josh Harrellson did not suit up in Oklahoma City. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks was not happy with the way former Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks was fired after only 50 games this season. "As a friend, as someone who's been around him, I don't think that was deserved," Brooks said. "Nobody in this league can go into a new situation and change the culture of that organization in 50 games." ... In an interview with ESPN Houston, Rockets G James Harden was asked if he would still be with the Thunder if money were not a factor. "Definitely, no question," Harden said. ... Brooks said G Russell Westbrook's minute restrictions would be lifted when the playoffs start.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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