Thunder 110, Hornets 95
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
When Kevin Durant gazed across the court at the New Orleans Hornets, a young team full of potential and stars in the making like Anthony Davis, it reminded him of what the Oklahoma City Thunder were like a few years ago.
When the Hornets saw Durant slam down an alley-oop lob to punctuate a fast break and give the Thunder a 30-point first-half lead, it reminded them of how far they still have to go to match the NBA's elite.
Durant and Kevin Martin each scored 27 points, and the Thunder rolled to their sixth victory in seven games, 110-95 over New Orleans on Friday night.
''We know what it takes to win on the road and we really respect our opponent. These guys remind me so much of us a few years back with the talent they have and the coach they have,'' Durant said. ''I wanted to ignite my team, not by scoring the ball or rebounding or getting assists. I was just trying to inspire them by my hard work and playing with a good intensity level.''
Serge Ibaka scored 15 for Oklahoma City, which shot 54 percent (40 of 74) and built a lead as large as 34 in the second half, allowing the starters to rest for the entire fourth quarter. Thabo Sefolosha scored 11 points, while Russell Westbrook had 10 points and 12 of the Thunder's 31 assists.
Westbrook made only three of 11 shots, but coach Scott Brooks raved about the guard's hustle and unselfishness.
''It was one of his better games. On both ends of the floor he was disruptive,'' Brooks said. ''When he plays like that, it puts a lot of pressure on the opponent, a lot of pressure on their point guard to run the offense.''
Westbrook, meanwhile, downplayed his role as a scorer, even though that's what he has been the past couple seasons.
''It's not about me scoring a certain amount of points. That's not the issue,'' Westbrook said. ''Our problem is we need to win games and that's all I try to do. ... When I go to the basket, a lot of guys are collapsing on me and guys are open, and my job is to make sure they get the ball on time and on target.''
Oklahoma City made 14 3-pointers, with Martin hitting six of 11 and Durant going 4 of 5.
Ryan Anderson scored 15 points for New Orleans, which dropped its second straight. Anthony Davis tied a career high with 11 rebounds to go with eight points, but hit only four of 14 shots.
''They pretty much ran away in the first half,'' Anderson said. ''They made a lot of shots and we didn't answer fast enough. This is the NBA, where the greatest players in the world play and on any given night a player can have a night like Kevin Martin had. He couldn't miss.''
The defensive-minded Hornets entered the game giving up 90.5 points per contest, the third-lowest average in the league, but Oklahoma City scored 66 in the first half on 64 percent shooting (23 of 36), including 8 of 13 from 3-point range.
The Thunder scored the first seven points and never looked back, going up by as much as 20 in the opening quarter on consecutive 3s by Martin.
Martin wound up hitting five of seven 3-point attempts in the first half and by halftime led all scorers with 22 points.
''We were just playing well as a team. The ball was just moving to me,'' Martin said. ''I just played my normal game. If the shot's there, take it.''
Although the Hornets appeared outclassed, they kept working, which seemed to get under the skin of some Thunder players.
Westbrook and Greivis Vasquez were assessed double technical fouls at the end of the half, and Durant and Kendrick Perkins walked toward halfcourt to have words with Hornets players including Davis. Monty Williams also strode toward center court and angrily told Durant and Perkins not to talk to his players.
The teams then headed to the locker rooms without further incident, and Hornets fans lustily booed Thunder players as they disappeared into the tunnel.
Westbrook said he had no idea what happened or why technicals were called. Williams said it was just a little misunderstanding.
''We thought they said something. They thought we said something. It happens,'' Williams said. ''"When you have guys like Russell and Greivis out there competing like that, things will happen. We're men. But you also have to be man enough to admit that we do goofy things when we compete. ... So we were just out there kind of yelling back and forth. Basically they were just kicking our butts.''
Notes: Hornets G Matt Carroll, acquired in a trade that sent Hakim Warrick to Charlotte on Tuesday, still has not reported to New Orleans, which has played twice since the deal. Hornets general manager Dell Demps stopped short of saying the Hornets intend to buy Carroll out, but said the player and team have an agreement that has excused Carroll from showing up for now. ... The Hornets announced earlier in the day a multiyear contract extension for Demps. ... The Thunder, who had lost its previous game Wednesday at Memphis, improved to 3-0 in games played after a loss. Last season Oklahoma City was 15-3 in games played after a loss.