Basketball

Thunder clamps down, clip Suns

OKLAHOMA CITY - It took the NBA's highest-scoring offense coming to town for Oklahoma City to rediscover the lockdown defense that's made the Thunder a surprise playoff team in the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant scored 35 points, and the Thunder held Phoenix to its lowest scoring output in a second half this season to score a 96-91 victory Friday night.

“It’s important that we just keep grinding it out as a team,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s what we talk about. We have to treat every possession with great effort, great togetherness and we have to defend for each other.”

The Thunder limited Phoenix to a season-low 34 points after halftime but needed a late basket from an unlikely source – rookie reserve Serge Ibaka – to avoid a third straight loss.

Ibaka scored inside with 33.3 seconds left to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 91-86 after the Suns had closed a 12-point deficit to three. Ibaka ended up matching his career high with 15 points, and Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha also scored 15 for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City played without starting center Nenad Krstic, who is day-to-day with a right knee contusion.

Amare Stoudemire had 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead Phoenix, which fell back in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Nash had 11 points and 12 assists for Phoenix, which had won 11 of its prior 12 games and came in within a half-game of Denver for second in the West.

But the Suns were held to 31 percent shooting in the second half and scored only 12 points in the third quarter.

1 ARENAS BEGINS SENTENCE Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas began serving his sentence Friday for bringing guns into the locker room. Arenas will spend two days at the Montgomery (Md.) County jail for medical screening and classification, then be transferred to a halfway house for his 30-day term.

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