Thunder top Hornets, extend win streak to 9
DEC 12, 2012 8:46p ET
Winners of eight in a row, scoring at a prolific pace, with ease and awe, the Thunder also came into Wednesday's game at Chesapeake Arena with full knowledge through experience that the Hornets just aren't that good.
Well, the Hornets still aren't that good, but the Thunder sure didn't do much to further their case as the best in the West, trailing by as much as 11 in the second half before rallying – albeit sluggishly – for a 92-88 victory.
Yeah, Oklahoma City won again, making it a NBA-best nine wins in a row, but there was no great shooting, no ease in scoring and no signs that this New Orleans team was anything similar to the one the Thunder had walked over in two previous meetings.
"For whatever reason, we were out of sync offensively," coach Scott Brooks said. "We didn't have nothing going. We were missing shots we've been making."
And for whatever reason, the Thunder turned to an unlikely source for a spark in Reggie Jackson, and it worked. Seldom-used, and it's not like folks have been chanting his name. Jackson hadn't played since Dec. 1, was playing in the D-League last week and has 11 games this season where he hasn't seen any action at all.
He came into Wednesday's game when the Thunder was down 11 points, and he responded by making two of three shots, getting two rebounds and blocking a shot for five points in nearly 11 high-energy minutes.
"I think he called it a few times," Jackson said about being summoned into the game by Brooks. "I thought I heard my name, but I wasn't really sure."
The result is a 17th win in the last 19 games for the Thunder, but their streak of scoring 100 or more points is done at 12. Meanwhile, their streak of playing well ends, too. And it's OK, you can blame it on the Hornets. At 5-16 overall, New Orleans brings the yawn factor with some force. With an opponent lacking star power and interest, the Thunder looked neither inspired or interested, like the usually active crowd.
And Oklahoma City was due for a game like this. It had been a while since the Thunder threw in a clunker, and this one definitely applies. They shot a season-worst 30.6 percent in the first half and looked nothing like the team that was second in the league in field-goal percentage and first in the league at lighting up the scoreboard. Oklahoma City had a season-low 36 points at halftime and needed Jackson's spark and Durant's 35 points to outlast a Hornet team they had beaten by double digits twice this season.
Here's the deal: It's a long season, and the Thunder are at the top of the Western Conference at 18-4 overall. A win over the Hornets in December will go down as unmemorable, but the lasting impact of the game is Oklahoma City was able to figure it out on a night when it looked like it wouldn't, and that's something even the best teams sometimes fail at. The Miami Heat spent Wednesday losing to Golden State. The Los Angeles Lakers haven't figured it out all season, so facing a team like New Orleans with no incentive past just trying to get through the game is the challenge.
After all, a night earlier, New Orleans scored all of 70 points in a loss at home to Washington. Safe to say, Oklahoma City's attention level was somewhere below intense.
"It takes a lot, especially this time of year," Thunder guard Kevin Martin said of getting up for and playing well in every game. "We responded well."
Well, they responded. And that's different from responding well. The Thunder scored 36 points in the first half and then 34 in the fourth quarter when its starts finally showed up. Durant scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, making five of eight shots. Martin scored eight of his 17 in the last quarter, making two of three shots, and Westbrook chipped in a 3-pointer and made both of his shots from the field in the fourth quarter.
"It was a tough shooting start for us," Durant said. "We had to find the energy, and I think we did that in the second half."
It all means the Thunder is off to the same 18-4 start as they had a season ago on the way to the finals. It's the second-best start in franchise history, behind Seattle's 20-2 start in 1993.
"Well, we're a veteran team," Durant said. "We've been through it before. We knew this was going to be a long game, so we stuck with it and had faith in our offense and were able to make some shots."