Durant scores 34, Thunder beat Bobcats without Westbrook
Kevin Durant insists he can’t do it alone.
The Oklahoma City forward said he’s going to need help picking up the slack, with running mate Russell Westbrook out until after the All-Star break following knee surgery Friday.
"I need Reggie Jackson. I need Serge Ibaka. I need Kendrick Perkins. I’m not afraid to say that," Durant said. "I need to lean on those guys, just like we need to lean on each other. That is what team is about. So through adversity we just have to lean on each other."
But at least on this night, the Thunder leaned heavily on Durant, especially down the stretch.
Durant scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 12 rebounds as the Thunder held on to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats 89-85 Friday night.
The team announced before the game that Westbrook will miss at least 27 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in Los Angeles.
Durant did get some help.
Ibaka had 12 points and nine rebounds and Thabo Sefolosha had 12 points and a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left to seal the victory for the Thunder, who have won seven straight road games and 11 of 12 overall.
But Jackson, who started in place of Westbrook, was only 4 of 19 from the floor and Perkins failed to score despite playing more than 25 minutes.
"Obviously, it was an emotional day with Russell, but I thought we did a good job of handling that," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Now we’ve got to work and improve the rest of the season."
As for Jackson, Brooks said he has confidence that "he’ll get better. He’ll challenge himself to shoot better and he will."
Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 18 points and seven assists. Al Jefferson added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
This one came right down to the wire.
After tailing most of the game, Charlotte had a chance to steal the win with 3.9 seconds left but Josh McRoberts missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the left wing. Sefolosha was fouled and clinched it with two foul shots on the other end.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford wasn’t satisfied with his team taking one of the league’s best teams to the wire.
"This may surprise you, but I didn’t like at all the way we played," Clifford said. "I didn’t like our defense. Our attention to detail was not good at all. The things we talked about this morning that we had to do, we did a poor job with. We gave them baskets. Our effort on the glass was not anywhere it needs to be."
The Thunder led 76-74 with 5 minutes remaining when Durant knocked down a pair of 3s to give Oklahoma City the momentum. He added a step-back jumper and a driving layup to push the advantage to 86-78.
But Anthony Tolliver hit a 3-pointer and Walker converted a breakaway layup to cut the lead to three with 49 seconds left.
Durant left the door open when he missed a pull-up jumper with 25 seconds left, and the Bobcats grabbed the rebound.
Instead of going for a 3-pointer to tie, Walker drove the lane and scored on a layup that cut the deficit to one. Jackson was fouled on the inbounds pass and hit one of two free throws with 10.7 seconds to go, setting up a chance for McRoberts.
"I think Ibaka ran down there to cover Kemba and I got a wide-open look at it," McRoberts said. "I’ll take that shot every time. We’re frustrated we lost. There are no moral victories."
The surprising news on Westbrook came just two days after he had a triple-double against the New York Knicks.
General manager Sam Presti said in a news release that Westbrook has been playing pain-free, but "recently had experienced increased swelling" in his right knee.
Westbrook’s knee problems began in April when he tore his meniscus in the second game of the Western Conference playoffs. He had a second arthroscopic surgery before training camp.
Oklahoma City is 21-3 with Westbrook in the starting lineup and 3-2 without him.
"He was playing great basketball, probably some of the best basketball in the entire league," Brooks said. "We’re looking forward to him coming back and getting back to the level that he has played at — and he will."
NOTES: The Bobcats embark on a five-game road trip beginning Saturday night in Atlanta. … Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. attended the game. … The Thunder are 11-1 in their last 12 games against the Bobcats.