Oklahoma City Trudges Past New Orleans Hornets 101-93
Grant Belcher, News9.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Thunder couldn't have asked for a more perfect opponent to play on Monday night.
The night after an exhausting, record-setting overtime win against the Nuggets, OKC got a gift in taking on the Western Conference-worst Hornets in a 101-93 victory.
Not only did Oklahoma City look tired and out of sync at times, but James Harden and Nick Collison both missed the game with minor injuries, making four significant contributors benched for the Thunder.
Harden turned his ankle in the victory against Denver, and Nick Collison suffered a groin injury but neither is expected to be serious.
The result was OKC digging well down its bench, giving significant minutes to guys like Cole Aldrich and Royal Ivey.
And had the Thunder been playing a playoff-caliber team, Monday night could have resulted in a loss for them.
Oklahoma City turned the ball over 19 times, allowing the Hornets to stay in the game despite leading by 22 at the half. It led by as many as 26 in the game before allowing New Orleans to whittle the lead all the way down to six points a couple of times late.
The Hornets never stopped fighting until the final buzzer, resulting in another night of big minutes for Durant and Westbrook.
But the duo responded well. They certainly didn't put up the combined 91 points that they did the previous night against Denver, but they had 31 points apiece to move the Thunder to 25-7, still best in the Western Conference.
One of the highlights of the night, however, was Oklahoma City's big men. Perkins channeled his inner Serge Ibaka, putting up six blocks to go with 13 rebounds and five points.
Ibaka also had 13 rebounds to go with three blocks, which is ironically below his season average at this point (3.29).
OKC didn't shoot the ball particularly well at 45 percent (31 percent from 3-point range) but still managed to hold the Hornets to just 36 percent shooting.
And the bench woes for the Thunder continued, with OKC's bench being outscored 45-18 in the game, though missing Nick Collison and James Harden hurt, as did Daequan Cook being a staple in the starting lineup instead of off the bench.
But the end result is the fifth win in the past six games, and Tuesday will be a well-deserved day of rest for OKC.
It will host Boston on Wednesday in the second-to-last game before the All-Star break. Tipoff against the Celtics is set for 6 p.m.