Durant leads Thunder over Pelicans, 109-95

When Pelicans 7-footer Jason Smith stepped outside for the type

of mid-range jumper he hits routinely, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka

sprang out to the perimeter and blocked the shot.

While the Thunder can usually rely on plenty of scoring from

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it was a concerted defensive

effort in the second half that helped them build and keep a

comfortable lead down the stretch in a 109-95 victory over New

Orleans on Friday night.

”Everybody did a great job helping each other on defense and

there was more communication,” said Ibaka, who had 17 points, 13

rebounds and three of the Thunder’s 11 blocks. ”Our focus was to

contest every shot and make them make tough shots. Some nights they

will make them but I think tonight we did a great job and that was

the key.”

Durant scored 29 points and Westbrook added 25 as Oklahoma City

beat New Orleans for the ninth straight time and 14th in 15

meetings. Most of those games occurred when New Orleans’ team was

called the Hornets.

Ryan Anderson scored 18 for the Pelicans, who lost their second

straight at home while playing their third full game without power

forward Anthony Davis, sidelined by a broken left hand. New Orleans

also lost guard Tyreke Evans to a left ankle sprain late in the

third quarter, and soon afterward Oklahoma City built a 15-point

lead.

”I hate to say we didn’t play well. We just missed so many

shots in the paint,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. ”Whether

they blocked the shot or distracted us, or we threw it up there and

just didn’t make it, I thought that messed with us a little.”

New Orleans raced to an early double-digit lead, only to fall

behind 58-52 by halftime after Westbrook pulled up for a quick

3-pointer with 31 seconds left in the quarter and Reggie Jackson

hit another with 2.7 seconds left.

Westbrook said he was just trying to assure his team two

possessions inside the last 38 seconds.

”It worked out for us,” he said. ”We got two 3s out of it.

They got nothing.”

Durant, who also had three blocks, opened the second half with a

3 to make it a nine-point game and the Thunder led the entire

second half – rather comfortably throughout the fourth quarter,

going up by as many as 20.

It was precisely the type of second-half effort the Thunder

sought after giving up 35 third-quarter points in a loss at

Portland two nights earlier.

”We were really disappointed in how we lost last game and

wanted to be better,” Durant said. ”We’re a really good team

after losses.”

Jackson scored 15 for Oklahoma City, which shot 50.6 percent (39

of 77) and rarely allowed its lead to slip below double digits

after Thabo Sefolosha’s driving dunk made it 74-64 in the middle of

the third quarter.

Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon each scored 16 for New Orleans,

which shot 37.5 percent (33 of 88) and hurt itself by going 3 of 16

from 3-point range. Evans had 11 before his injury and Anthony

Morrow 10.

Oklahoma City shot nearly 59 percent in the opening half, when

Durant (19 points) and Westbrook (17) combined for 36 points.

New Orleans had the largest lead of the half when Holiday’s

reverse layup made it 22-11 halfway through the opening quarter.

But the Thunder chipped away, regaining the lead early in the

second.

The game was tied at 52 after Gordon’s fast-break layup. Then

came the back-to-back 3s by Westbrook and Jackson in the final

half-minute of the second quarter, and the Thunder never trailed

again.

NOTES: Oklahoma City, which is 9-0 at home, improved to 5-4 on

the road. … New Orleans outrebounded Oklahoma City 49-41. Smith

grabbed 12 rebounds for the Pelicans and Al-Farouq Aminu had 10.

… Oklahoma City turned 16 New Orleans turnovers into 24 points

and outscored the Pelicans in fast-break points 17-10. … New

Orleans might have lost the game by an even wider margin if not for

19 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points.