Thunder Win Debut In Alternate Uniforms
Even as the Oklahoma City Thunder start to string together some wins, Kevin Durant doesn't see his team playing at its highest level early in the season.
Serge Ibaka scored a career-high 25 points, Durant chipped in a season-high 25 points and 13 rebounds, and the Thunder broke in their new alternate jerseys by beating the winless Detroit Pistons 105-94 on Friday night.
The victory still felt a bit hollow for Durant, who led Oklahoma City to the NBA Finals just five months ago.
"We've won the last three games but we've just got to find a way to do it for 48 minutes, as far as the energy is concerned," Durant said. "Of course, you won't be perfect playing all game. You're going to miss coverages on defense, you're going to miss shots, but our energy has to be there every second we're on the floor and that starts with me.
"I've got to be better and it goes down the line. If I come in every single day with a great mindset, then hopefully the team follows."
Durant and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook were scoreless for the first 10 minutes of the game and it wasn't until late that Oklahoma City really took control.
The Thunder scored nine straight points soon after Durant checked back into the game midway through the fourth quarter, stretching their lead to 93-77 after he hit two free throws with 5:47 to play.
Detroit never got closer than nine after that, falling to 0-6 on the season -- one loss shy of matching the worst starts in franchise history in 1962 and 1980.
"Sometimes the scoreboard can be deceiving, the stat sheet can be deceiving, but we have high standards here. That's what we've got to live up to -- what we think of ourselves," Durant said. "That's most important to us, and we've got to do a better job."
First-round draft pick Andre Drummond led the Pistons with a career-high 22 points -- 15 more than he scored in any of his first five games. Tayshaun Prince contributed 16 points and Rodney Stuckey scored 15.
The Pistons fell behind by 14 early in the second half but rallied back late in the third quarter by going to a lineup pairing Greg Monroe with Drummond, the ninth overall pick in this year's draft.
Coach Lawrence Frank said before the game that Detroit had been hesitant to use the two big men together because "you don't take away one of your main cogs and put him in a position of weakness there" but that the Pistons would probably try out the lineup eventually.
The debut was an immediate success, with Monroe setting up Drummond for easy baskets on back-to-back possessions to start a 9-0 run. After Prince's 3-pointer, Monroe finished it off with a two-handed slam to get Detroit within 72-69 with 30 seconds left in the third.
"He's real athletic. Me, partially," a humble Monroe said. "I can find him. When you have two guys like that, you have two big men guarding us and you know how they get mixed up sometimes with picks and stuff like that. I was able to find him a couple of times with them mixed up and got a couple easy buckets."
The Pistons couldn't sustain it, though, as Oklahoma City inched away with Durant on the bench. He returned just before Drummond hit a free throw, and the Thunder scored the next nine points after that to take control for good.
Kevin Martin added 16 points off the bench and Eric Maynor had 13, even getting a late call at the end of the game to replace the struggling Westbrook.
Westbrook ended up with 10 points and six assists but continued to struggle with his shot, dropping to 20 for 62 (32 percent) in his last four games. He left the locker room without speaking to reporters.
Monroe followed his first career triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
A year after trailing by 32 in the first half of a blowout in their only visit to Oklahoma City, the Pistons were able to keep it close by limiting Durant and Westbrook to slow starts.
Westbrook missed his first six shots and didn't score until converting a putback with 4:38 left before halftime during an 8-0 run that finally gave the Thunder a little bit of a cushion at 44-35.
Frank called his team's defense and rebounding "disturbing" prior to the game, and he was pleased the Pistons finished with more rebounds than an opponent for the first time this season. They also had 48-38 advantage in points in the paint, a 19-11 edge on second-chance points and even outscored the athletic Thunder on the fast break.
"We've just got to kind of put it all together and keep building," Frank said.Game notes
Thunder reserve Hasheem Thabeet sat out with a sprained left ankle. ... Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, still in town after playing at the arena the night before, was presented with a personalized Oklahoma City alternate jersey during a first-quarter timeout. ... Martin, who started the season 14 for 22 (64 percent) on 3-pointers, was 2 for 9 from behind the arc. ... The Pistons finish a six-game road trip Saturday at Houston before a rematch against the Thunder on Monday in Detroit.