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News » THUNDER 2009-11-07

THUNDER 2009-11-07

THUNDER 2009-11-07Down by 13 points to the Lakers in the first quarter, in danger of getting buried early in front of a home sellout crowd on Tuesday, Thunder coach Scott Brooks turned to his bench.

Last season Oklahoma City's reserves often poured gas on the fire, and deficits widened.

This season, Etan Thomas, James Harden, Nick Collison and Kevin Ollie are impacting games. Against the Lakers, OKC's reserves closed the gap to three points early in the second quarter. By halftime the Lakers' lead was 51-50.

"To be a good team, it can't just come from the starting five," said Jeff Green. "You need production off the bench. ...We have guys who won't miss a beat."

The second half of a 101-98 overtime loss to the Lakers was similar. OKC trailed when the reserves entered the game in the third quarter. When the starters returned with eight minutes left, the Thunder led 81-77.

"We have a nice mix off the bench," Collison said. "That's a big part of winning NBA games because you're playing against their bench for a good portion of the game."

The Thunder's four reserves rate well in the plusminus statistical measurement that is rooted in hockey but gaining popularity in the NBA.

Collison is +23, meaning the Thunder has outscored opponents by 23 points when he is on the court. He and Thomas (+8) provide veteran interior play. Backup point guard Ollie (+7) provides stability. The rookie Harden (+32) is a 3-point threat and strong passer.

"They're not going to have to score points every time," Durant said. "As those guys continue to play hard they can make a difference."

Brooks is using a nineman rotation. When he goes to his bench, he plans to keep Durant and possibly another starter on the floor.

So far, it's been productive. The reserves have outscored the last three opponents' benches 54-43.

In the win at Detroit, the bench helped the Thunder erase an 8-point deficit. In Sunday's loss to Portland, OKC's bench was only outscored 21-14. That's significant: Portland ranked second in the NBA last season in bench scoring.

With the Laker bench thinner than usual with Pau Gasol sidelined, OKC's subs outscored L.A.'s 22-6.

"We have some toughness coming off the bench," Ollie said. "Hopefully we can stabilize things when the starters are out or give the team a lift when they're struggling. I'm encouraged. But we have to keep it up."

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 7, 2009


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