Kevin Durant scored 35 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder extended their winning streak to nine games with a 92-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets 92-88 on Wednesday night.
The Thunder rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit and matched their longest streak since the franchise moved from Seattle.
At 18-4, the Thunder matched the second-best start in franchise history. Seattle started 20-2 in the 1993-94 season and the Thunder started 18-4 last season.
It was the Thunder’s third win over the Hornets in the past four weeks and seventh straight in the series.
Brian Roberts scored 16 points to lead New Orleans, which lost its fifth straight game.
Greivis Vasquez missed a 3-point attempt in the closing seconds that would have given New Orleans the lead. Thabo Sefolosha corralled the rebound and made the clinching free throws for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City, the league’s highest-scoring team, entered the game with a 106 point average, but had its run of 12 straight triple-digit games end as it had to fight back simply to win against the worst team in the Western Conference.
The Hornets, who fell 77-70 on Tuesday night against Washington, figured their best chance to stay with the Thunder was to keep the game low-scoring and that strategy worked for most of three quarters. The Hornets led 62-51 after a basket by Austin Rivers with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks then went with a small lineup, inserting seldom-used guard Reggie Jackson alongside backup point guard Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin and Durant, and closed the quarter on a 7-0 run. A 9-2 run, capped by a dunk by Durant, put the Thunder ahead 67-64.
The Hornets regained the lead twice after that, but a 3-pointer by Martin put the Thunder ahead for good at 73-72 with 6:20 left, but Oklahoma City never could pull away.
A three-point play by Durant with 1:12 left pushed the Thunder’s lead to 89-84, but Anthony Davis made 1 of 2 free throws with 18.5 seconds left and New Orleans grabbed the rebound on the miss. Roberts made a 3-pointer with nine seconds left to pull the Hornets within 89-88.
Durant made 1 of 2 free throws with 8.1 seconds left. The Thunder scored 34 points in the fourth quarter, two fewer than they did in the first half.
With help from 12 points by Ryan Anderson, New Orleans led most of the way in the first half and was up 44-36 at halftime. Oklahoma City, which entered the game second in the NBA in field-goal shooting at 49.1 percent, shot 30.6 percent from the field, including 0 of 3 from 3-point range.
Oklahoma City led briefly by one point on two occasions in the second quarter before a 13-3 run by the Hornets gave them a 36-26 lead.
Anderson finished with 14 points for the Hornets. Martin scored 17 for Oklahoma City while Russell Westbrook added 14.
Notes: The Thunder’s first-quarter (17) and first-half (36) point totals were season lows. … The Hornets’ only lead over the Thunder in the first two meetings of the season came in the second game, when they were up 2-0 . New Orleans coach Monty Williams said before the game he’s still not sure how long Eric Gordon, who has a sore left knee, will be out of the lineup.