In their 109-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night
-- the Thunder's ninth win in 10 games and ninth consecutive win
over New Orleans — the catalyst was Oklahoma City's microwave
offense and lock-down defense in the second half.
With both teams trading baskets late in the first half, New Orleans
guard Tyreke Evans fired a bullet pass into the stands on a
fast-break opportunity that would have broken a tie game. But the
Pelicans' ninth turnover of the half instantly turned deadly.
Sensing a chance to get two quick possessions in the final 34
seconds, guard Russell Westbrook nailed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds
left in the first half, and guard Reggie Jackson followed up with a
3-pointer from the left wing 2.0 seconds before halftime to open a
When forward Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to open
the second half, suddenly it was 61-52, and the Thunder (14-4) were
off and running.
"That was huge," said Durant, who scored 19 of his game-high 29
points in the first half. "We practice that all the time —
finishing up those two-for-one opportunities. Russ did a great job
of getting his guy on his heels and knocking down huge shots, and
Reggie was sitting there wide open and made a big shot as well. That
pushed our momentum up a little bit."
Westbrook added 25 points, which included a 35-foot heave in the
first half that barely beat the 24-second shot clock and prompted
Westbrook to unveil his trademark gunslinger pose.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks agreed that the offensive sequence ending
the first half and beginning the second was critical.
"Those are shots we can make," Brooks said. "We started off the year
slowly from the 3-point line, but I think as the season's gone
along, we've shot the ball much better from 3."
An even bigger key was the Thunder's defense, which clamped down on
forward Ryan Anderson, normally a lethal 3-point shooter, who missed
12 of 17 shots but still finished with a team-high 18 points.
Overall, the Pelicans shot 15 of 48 (31.3 percent) in a 43-point
"I hate to say we didn't play well, (but) we just missed so many
shots in the paint tonight, and I thought it messed with us," New
Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "We typically finish well around
the basket. (There were) a lot of misses around the basket."
The Thunder led 85-76 with 8:38 left when reserve guard Derek Fisher
hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and was fouled by guard Austin
Rivers. Fisher converted the free throw for a four-point play,
stretching the lead to 89-76.
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The victory gave Oklahoma City a 2-1 road trip and sets up a
huge early-season home game Sunday against the surging 17-2
"We just have to come out and do what we did (tonight)," Durant
said about facing the Eastern Conference leaders. "We have to
think defense first and think about playing together and playing
hard. At the end of the day, it's fun. We've got to go out there
and play. We need to play fun, play loose, but at the same time
be focused and locked in."
The Pelicans (9-10) lost their second consecutive home game
without injured forward Anthony Davis (broken finger on his left
hand), and they got more bad news on the injury front. Evans,
who scored 11 points in 13 minutes and has been a powerful
penetrator, went down awkwardly on his left ankle — the same
ankle he sprained in the preseason — after a layup attempt and
had to be assisted to the locker room.
The Thunder shot 50.6 percent from the field and held the
Pelicans to 37.5 percent shooting. Forward Serge Ibaka had 17
points and 13 rebounds for Oklahoma City.
Leading 58-52 at the half, the Thunder broke open the game with
a 22-13 run over 10:25 of the third quarter to take an 80-65
lead. The Pelicans shot just 23 percent from the field in the
quarter (six of 26) and scored just 16 points.
NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he and his wife,
Ingrid, were "really messed up" over the news of Nelson
Mandela's death. Williams thought he might get to meet the
former South African president three years ago, but an
NBA-sponsored trip during the summer was canceled at the last
minute because of Mandela's precarious health. "I was about as
giddy as I've ever been about meeting anyone, but I didn't get a
chance to do it," Williams said. "He's somebody that I not only
look up to but somebody I strive to be like. We've just lost
someone in our society we probably will never replace. It's
amazing how they talked about him over there. They looked at him
like he's the father of not just South Africa, but Africa in
general." ... Thunder G Russell Westbrook missed the Friday
shootaround because of sickness, but he started the game. ...
Williams was still beaming about SF Al-Farouq Aminu's 20-rebound
effort against Dallas on Wednesday. "Twenty rebounds in a game
for a small forward is unique," Williams said. ... Thunder coach
Scott Brooks, whose team was averaging 103.7 ppg entering
Friday, said playing fast fits the OKC style, "but good shots
are more important. Quick shots aren't good unless they're good
shots. We want to play fast, but we feel we can play a different
style of basketball depending on what the time and the game
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