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News » Krstic starting to make big impact

Krstic starting to make big impact

Krstic starting to make big impact
Interim Thunder coach Scott Brooks has assured he would roll players in and out of the starting lineup at the shooting guard and center positions since the day he took over back in November.

But center Nenad Krstic is beginning to make that a difficult promise for his coach to deliver on.

Krstic scored a team-high 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting to lead the Thunder to an 88-83 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Ford Center. It was the second straight game Krstic has led the Thunder in scoring. He poured in a season-high 26 points in Monday's 96-87 win over Dallas.

"I'd be a fool taking him out of the starting lineup for the next game," Brooks said only half-jokingly.

No matter what Brooks decides to do with his lineup over the final 21 games, Krstic has finally arrived as the sharp-shooting center the Thunder thought it acquired when it signed him away from his Russian team in late December. And after two months in a Thunder uniform, only now does Krstic resemble the player who was on the verge of NBA All-Star status before sustaining a knee injury during the 2006-07 season with the New Jersey Nets.

Krstic is averaging 16 points and 5.5 rebounds over his last four games, proving to be a reliable option as a dead-eye shooter on pick-and-pop plays with guard Russell Westbrook. But while Wednesday's game displayed the progress Krstic has made offensively, it also highlighted the defensive development still left to be done.

As the Thunder nursed a 44-43 halftime lead over the Wizards (14-47), Krstic sat on 12 points but had yet to pull down a rebound. He snared four in the final 24 minutes, a modest total but one that typified how the 7-footer has challenged himself over the past three weeks to hit the glass harder.

"When he does that, it helps us," Brooks said. "He's obviously a great shooter, and he spaces the floor. But when we're playing good Basketball, he's in the middle either contesting shots or getting rebounds for us so we can bust out and run."

The Thunder improved to 16-45 and won its third straight game for the first time this season behind its renewed defensive efforts. Oklahoma City held Washington to 40 percent shooting and out-rebounded the Wizards, 41-30.

It's no coincidence that during the three-game winning streak the Thunder has held all three opponents to 92 points or less and two teams shot 42 percent or less. During the previous seven-game losing streak, the Thunder gave up an average of 114.4 points and allowed teams to shoot 48 percent or better five times.

The defensive effort, coupled with a collective offensive attack has helped the Thunder overcome the loss of injured forwards and leading scorers Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

All five starters scored in double figures Wednesday. Thabo Sefolosha had 15 points. Westbrook, Nick Collison and Kyle Weaver scored 12 apiece.

"Everybody feels they have to step their game up," Weaver said. "You've got two of your guys out, and it's points out there. It's rebounds out there. There are opportunities out there on the floor."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 7, 2009


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