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Thunder has to protect the home court

Thunder has to protect the home courtThe two years that Sir Willis Reed graced us here with the Hornets, he offered a bushel of NBA proverbs.

Like this one. Young teams feed off the energy of home crowds, then feel empty on the road.

The Thunder is testing Reed's theory.

The baby Boomers lost to Houston 100-91 Sunday night at the Ford Center, where they finish out November 4-4. The Thunder is 5-4 on the road.

If this team can figure out how to win at home, it just might be a ballteam.

"We'll take those road wins," said Kevin Durant. "It would be nice to get some home victories."

Only six NBA teams currently have a better road record than home. Elite teams Boston and Orlando.

Solid squads Miami and Houston.

The indescribable Knickerbockers.

Plus the Thunder , the only young squad among the half dozen.

"No reason for that," elder statesman Etan Thomas said of the home struggles. "We have a great crowd here.

"It's early. I wouldn't say we're a better road team than we are a home team."

How can you say any different about a team that's won in San Antonio, Salt Lake City and Miami but lost at home to the Clippers and a Rockets team missing Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and the marvelous Luis Scola, my favorite NBA player, whose eyeball was severely bloodied 22 seconds into the game Sunday night?

Not to besmirch Houston.

The Rockets are a testament to grit and guile. They play tough and they play smart and they never crack, no matter who goes out.

"Their identity stays the same every game," said Thunder veteran Kevin Ollie.

The Rockets know who they are.

They know how to work the ball, and they absolutely know how to defend. Nobody is standing in line to play Houston.

Still, this is a game the Thunder should have won. When Scola went down, blood pouring from an eyelid clawed by the dunking Thomas, and then ultimate garbage man Carl Landry found serious foul trouble, the Thunder should have pounced.

But a crowd ready to roar got few chances. Too many turnovers (19). Too many missed 3-pointers ( Thunder made one of 15). Too many Rocket offensive rebounds (23).

The Rockets hung around, then took the lead and won going away.

"Right now, it's who we are," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Compete, try to make it a fourth quarter game and get a win."

All this playoff talk is fun. Much more fun than last November, when we were trying to figure out if the Thunder could make a run at the 9-73 Sixers of 1973.

But until the Thunder starts proving Willis Reed right, their explosion onto the NBA stage will come later rather than sooner.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 3, 2009


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