Thunder Slip Past Hornets Despite Poor Shooting Performance
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City needed a spark.
Down 62-51 late in the third quarter to New Orleans, the worst team in the Western Conference so far this season, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks turned to second-year guard Reggie Jackson. A minute later, on his first shot attempt, Jackson buried a three-pointer.
It was exactly what the Thunder needed, as OKC responded with a 16-2 run to take control of game. OKC held on down the stretch for a 92-88 victory, the ninth consecutive victory for the Thunder.
The Hornets cut the OKC lead to one on a Brian Roberts' three-pointer with nine seconds remaining, and had a chance to win when Kevin Durant missed the first of two free throws to keep the deficit at two. However, Greivis Vasquez missed a three-pointer with two seconds remaining, and Thabo Sefolosha iced the game with two free throws with less than one second remaining.
OKC pulled out the win despite shooting 43.7 percent from the field, including 5-of-15 from three-point range. The Thunder was able to get away with that paltry performance because it held New Orleans to 39.8 percent shooting from the field for the game.
Durant led all scorers with 35 points, 25 of those coming in the second half. Kevin Martin had 17 off the bench, and Russell Westbrook had 14 points on a 4-for-14 shooting performance, but chipped in nine assists and just two turnovers.
Roberts led the Hornets with 16 points off the bench, while Ryan Anderson had 14 points and Austin Rivers had 12.
The Thunder played perhaps their worst half of basketball this season in the first half, shooting 30.6 percent from the field, while the Hornets shot 43.2 percent. New Orleans also hit 4-of-9 three-point attempts to take a 44-36 lead into the locker room. For comparison's sake, the Thunder scored 36 points in the first quarter alone in its Nov. 16 matchup with the Hornets.
The lone bright spot for OKC was going 14-of-18 from the free throw to keep the deficit just eight points. New Orleans made only two free throws in the first half, or the score could have been even uglier than it already was.
OKC began to click a bit more offensively in the third quarter, but was unable to chip into the New Orleans lead because of matchup problems. Brooks refused to go to a small lineup, leaving Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka on the floor to deal with Anderson, a terrific three-point shooter. OKC finally went small when Brooks put in Jackson, and the Thunder finally found its rhythm from there.
OKC will take on Sacramento Friday night at 7 p.m., looking for a 10th consecutive win.