OKLAHOMA CITY -- Scott Brooks spent his first year as the Thunder's coach trying to turn Oklahoma City into a defensive-minded team.
While that's still a work in progress, at least he's made his team a winner.
Kevin Durant scored 35 points, Russell Westbrook added 26 and the Thunder had their highest-scoring output of the season in a 127-108 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
"We have to get it straight: Our players understand that you get burned more times than not if you play this style of basketball with our group right now, where we are as a team," said Brooks, who finished his first 82 games with a 29-53 record. "We have to continue to get better defensively, but it was a good win."
Oklahoma City started 2-17 under Brooks following the firing of P.J. Carlesimo, but has since gone 27-36 -- including 7-6 to begin this season.
"He's made our identity for us," Durant said. "Last year, we didn't know what kind of team we were. This year, we're a defensive-minded team that plays hard every night.
"Of course, you're going to have slip-ups through the year."
After watching Washington answer every Thunder run for the better part of three quarters, Brooks changed the game when he went with a three-guard lineup. Oklahoma City immediately went on a 9-0 burst to stretch its lead to 91-81 on Durant's three-point play.
Then Brooks went even smaller, going without a center and leaving the 6-foot-9 Green as his tallest player on the court. The move worked, as Oklahoma City continued to pull away.
"It made it easier on the defensive end, and we also got out quick on the break and got some easy points," Durant said.
The Thunder's top-5 draft picks from the last two drafts hooked up on the game's most electrifying play to help seal it.
Harden tipped the ball away from Caron Butler along the left sideline and kept it inbounds by whisking it behind his back to Westbrook, who returned the favor by tossing the ball behind his head to set up Harden's left-handed jam that made it 111-94 with six minutes left.
"They've been playing with each other since they were probably 9 and 10 years old, so they already had that connection," Durant said. "It was an unbelievable play."
Butler scored 24 for the Wizards, who have lost seven of eight. Gilbert Arenas had 23 points, Antawn Jamison contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds in his second game of the season, and Brendan Haywood had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Washington fell behind early and spent the whole night playing catch-up.
"That's been our motto for at least seven out of our 10 games. We've been playing uphill," Arenas said. "We need to start coming out aggressive. I don't know what it is, but we need to come out and start getting stuff going."
Oklahoma City opened an early 28-16 lead, only to let Washington claw back to tie the game at 32 on Butler's 3-pointer to start the second quarter. Sefolosha had a 3-pointer and a right-handed jam in an 8-0 surge that put the Thunder up 46-38, but again the Wizards got back within two before the deficit grew back to nine.
Arenas' 3-pointer from the right wing got Washington within 66-65 in the third quarter before the Thunder extended their lead again with a 16-6 spurt, capped by Sefolosha's 3-pointer that made it 82-71.
Naturally, the Wizards countered by reeling off 10 straight points -- getting within one before Brooks' strategic move helped Oklahoma City take control for good, whether he liked doing it or not.
"Some teams play this way. We can't get baited into playing this way," Brooks said. "Sometimes we have to continue to get better at playing our style of basketball. We have to do things who we are, and we are a defensive team that gets stops and gets excited on the defensive end."
Oklahoma City finished with a 28-10 advantage in fast-break scoring, including 17-2 in the second half.
"They've got so many jumpers where they can go small and get rebounds still. So, that's an advantage for them," Arenas said. "Keep the lane spread open while Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Green just attack the rim with no big. That's just what they did to try to keep Brendan out of the game."
Among the things Brooks has learned in his first full year since switching from an NBA assistant to the head coach? "You can't wear the same suit for 82 games," Brooks said. "Look back at some old tapes. I had like a three or four rotation." ... Wizards G Mike Miller went to the locker room with his left arm dangling at his side after a spill in the first quarter, but returned midway through the second quarter. He had missed three games earlier this month with a sprained joint in his left shoulder. ... After scoring a season-low 12 points in Oklahoma City's last game, Durant had 12 in the first 14 minutes. ... Thunder C Etan Thomas, who was acquired from the Wizards in an offseason trade, didn't score and had two rebounds in his first game against his old team.
|Oklahoma City (7-6) «||32||30||33||32||127|
|WAS:C. Butler 24 Pts
WAS:B. Haywood 16 Reb
WAS:G. Arenas 8 Ast
|OKC:K. Durant 35 Pts
OKC:J. Green 14 Reb
OKC:R. Westbrook 7 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|G. Arenas, PG||37||7-20||8-10||4||8||4||23|
|C. Butler, SF||37||8-16||4-5||4||4||2||24|
|A. Jamison, PF||37||9-17||3-7||12||0||3||22|
|B. Haywood, C||36||7-11||0-0||16||2||3||14|
|M. Miller, SF||35||2-4||0-0||2||2||2||5|
|E. Boykins, PG||17||5-7||1-1||0||2||2||11|
|A. Blatche, SF||15||3-7||0-0||1||0||3||6|
|D. Stevenson, SG||12||0-0||2-2||1||0||3||2|
|R. Foye, PG||12||0-2||1-2||0||1||0||1|
|D. McGuire, PF||1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|N. Young, SG||1||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|J. McGee, C||1||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|M. James, PG||Did Not Play|
|F. Oberto, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Crittenton, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|T. Sefolosha, SG||43||7-15||0-0||4||1||1||16|
|K. Durant, SF||42||12-22||10-13||6||6||4||35|
|J. Green, SF||39||8-15||2-2||14||2||3||19|
|R. Westbrook, PG||34||6-12||11-12||4||7||2||26|
|N. Krstic, C||21||3-4||0-0||4||0||4||6|
|J. Harden, SG||26||8-11||5-6||4||1||5||25|
|E. Thomas, C||17||0-2||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|K. Ollie, PG||14||0-2||0-0||3||1||2||0|
|N. Collison, C||2||0-0||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|K. Weaver, SG||1||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|R. Bowen, SF||Did Not Play|
|B. Mullens, C||Did Not Play|
|S. Livingston, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. Ibaka, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. White, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|