Thunder 97, Bobcats 93

Jeff Green didn’t need to put up huge numbers to impress his

coach – but he did, anyway.

Green scored 13 of his 25 points in the third quarter, then had

the rest of the night off as Oklahoma City beat the Charlotte

Bobcats 97-93 on Wednesday night in the Thunder’s preseason

opener.

”He was really having a good shooting game – obviously, if this

was a regular-season game, he would have played the fourth

quarter,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”It wasn’t one of

those situations where we just needed to see what happens. We want

to win the game. Any time you step on the floor, you’ve got

something to prove as a professional and as a team, and I thought

the guys in the fourth quarter really showed that.”

James Harden had 16 points, Serge Ibaka had 12 points and 11

rebounds and NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant added 12 while

playing only about 17 minutes of the first half for the

Thunder.

Did Durant mind being benched after halftime?

”I was furious,” Durant joked. ”They’re just looking out for

me. I had a long summer (playing for the U.S. team), at least

that’s what they think. … I felt good being back on the court

with my guys. Hopefully, I’ll play more next game.”

Oklahoma City never trailed in the fourth quarter and held the

Bobcats without a field goal during the final seven minutes.

With owner Michael Jordan looking on from a courtside seat,

Tyrus Thomas scored 16 points and Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw

added 14 apiece for the Bobcats (0-2).

Charlotte, which shot 48 percent, closed within one when Derrick

Brown’s 3-pointer made it 89-88 with 7:07 remaining. But the

Bobcats’ reserves managed just five points – on four free throws by

Brown and one by Matt Rogers – the rest of the way. A night

earlier, they were held to 25 points in the second half of an 87-72

loss at Cleveland.

”A lot of things we talked about that kind of went south in

Cleveland, I think we made an effort to try and correct them,”

coach Larry Brown said. ”We played harder, shared the ball better,

executed a little better. We’re still playing too fast.”

Things clicked in the third quarter this time, before the

shooting touch disappeared with the backups taking over in the

fourth. The Bobcats used a 20-3 run shortly after halftime to erase

a 12-point deficit, holding Oklahoma City to one field goal in a 6

1/2-minute span and taking advantage of some assertive play at the

other end from point guard D.J. Augustin.

Augustin lofted a pretty fast-break alley-oop to Wallace two

possessions before his 3-pointer made it 71-68 – the Bobcats’ first

lead since midway through the first quarter.

”We just tried to do what (his coach) told us,” said Augustin,

who added that he watched film of the Cleveland loss earlier before

the game. ”I saw some things I could have done better. That’s all

I focused on today, trying to do better, and I think the whole team

did the same thing.”

Brown finished with 12 points and Augustin scored 10 for

Charlotte, which is adjusting to life without Raymond Felton – who

left via free agency this offseason – and once again played without

Augustin’s backup.

Shaun Livingston missed his second straight game with soreness

in his left knee. Larry Brown said Livingston developed some fluid

that wasn’t discovered in previous examinations, and is being

cautious with him.

Center Nazr Mohammed, who had been bothered by neck spasms,

finished with three points and three rebounds in 13 1/2

minutes.

The Thunder return the heart of a rotation that carried them to

the Western Conference playoffs, but they opened the preseason

without three guards: rookie Jerome Dyson (lower back strain),

Thabo Sefolosha (illness) and Daequan Cook (concussion). That’s in

addition to forward Nick Collison, who has a bone bruise in his

left knee, and center Nenad Krstic, who had surgery last month to

repair a broken finger. Ibaka started at center in their place.

The exhibition marked a homecoming of sorts for Thunder guard

Eric Maynor, who played his senior year of high school in

Fayetteville after growing up across the state in Raeford.

Maynor finished with 10 points, and his jumper early in the

second quarter gave Oklahoma City its first double-figure lead at

37-27.

”It’s just good to come home and play in front of family and

friends, especially at this level,” Maynor said.