Thunder 95, Hornets 85
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
Playing their fifth game in six days, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked tired early against New Orleans.
That didn't stop Kevin Durant from taking over.
Durant had 29 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, and the Thunder beat the Hornets 95-85 on Wednesday night to finish their brutal stretch 5-0.
Durant hit 11 of his last 14 shots after missing his first three. He took over in the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the first eight minutes as the Thunder extended a two-point halftime lead to 12 points. The Hornets pulled within four early in the fourth, but never threatened after that.
''It feels good to get five wins, man,'' Durant said. ''We've got to look forward to keep pushing, keep building on it and hopefully do a good job next game. It's very encouraging that we can get through something like this.''
Russell Westbrook had 22 points and seven assists, and James Harden added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which won its fifth in a row and is tied with the Bulls for the best record in the NBA at 10-2.
''No Basketball!'' was written on a white board in the Thunder locker room next to Thursday's agenda, and none of the players figure to break that command.
''The schedule is like that for everybody,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ''Everybody is going to have to embrace that challenge because it is going to be a challenge.''
Chris Kaman and Carl Landry had 17 points for New Orleans, which lost for the seventh time in eight games. The Hornets outscored the Thunder 42-32 in the paint but connected on only 1 of 16 3-pointers, missing their last 12.
Durant almost singlehandedly led Oklahoma to a big lead in the third quarter. After knocking down a midrange jumper, he scored on a layup, a free throw and a pair of 3-pointers. On the second 3, he was wide open at the top of the key and buried the shot off a pass from Westbrook, giving the Thunder a 69-57 lead and forcing the Hornets to call a timeout.
''Kevin really was good tonight,'' Brooks said. ''He made some tough shots, and he made some good shots. He made some big plays for us and he rebounded the basketball.''
Durant also was a factor defensively during the decisive spurt. After leaving his feet when the Hornets Al-Farouq Aminu faked a 3, he recovered and blocked Aminu's leaner from behind, forcing a jump ball. He controlled the tip, leading to a basket by Serge Ibaka.
After losing fourth quarter leads in its last two home games against Philadelphia and Denver, New Orleans scored only 15 points in the fourth Wednesday. Greivis Vasquez missed a 3 that would have cut the deficit to one, and Oklahoma City's Daequan Cook sank a 3 to make the score 79-72.
With the Hornets trailing by six, Landry traveled on one possession. A little later, he had a layup roll off the rim.
Durant sealed the victory with baskets when the Hornets got within six later in the fourth.
While Durant struggled early, Emeka Okafor made his first three shots as the Thunder stumbled through the early minutes. Westbrook turned the ball over on a rare 5-seconds call while dribbling aimlessly on the perimeter, then got stuffed by Kaman on a drive to the basket, fell to the floor and had the ball go out of bounds off him.
The Hornets scored the first eight points. They led by 10 twice, 17-7 and 19-9 before the Thunder woke up.
''We showed that we can come out and jump on teams early, but we also showed we have difficulty sustaining it for 48 minutes,'' said Hornets guard Jarrett Jack, who had eight points and eight assists. ''It's frustrating.''
Durant hit his last five shots of the first half, including a 3-pointer for Oklahoma City's first basket more than three minutes into the game.
Westbrook had 15 of his 22 points in the second half.
''We've been together for a while and we know games like this count when it's time for playoff seeding and we need to come in and get games like this,'' he said. ''Fifth game in six nights, whatever it is, we've got to be ready to play.''
NOTES: The game was played with two officials after David Guthrie left with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter. The Hornets said Guthrie said he heard something pop in a knee. . The loudest cheer of the night came when the Hornets P.A. announcer saluted New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram and defensive end Cameron Jordan, who were watching from the front row. . The Hornets have yet to score 100 points in a game.