Westbrook carries Thunder past injury-depleted Pelicans
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter were too tough for a Pelicans team that’s missing too much.
Westbrook had 43 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder recovered from a slow start to beat injury-depleted New Orleans 110-103 on Wednesday night.
Kanter added 24 points and 14 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder, who bounced back after blowing fourth-quarter leads in losses to Boston and Memphis. The Thunder (7-5) are 2-2 without star forward Kevin Durant, who missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.
"We hung in there," Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. "Obviously, Russell had another really efficient game. He did some very, very good things."
Ryan Anderson scored 30 points and Eric Gordon and Ish Smith added 18 apiece for New Orleans (1-11), which lost its fifth straight game. The Pelicans suited up only nine players, with standout forward Anthony Davis sitting out with a shoulder injury sustained Tuesday against Denver. All nine saw action.
"I felt like we got everything that we possibly could," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played hard and I thought we competed like crazy. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity and a great player closed out the game for them."
New Orleans hung close most of the way and twice had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, but Toney Douglas and Anderson each missed an open 3-point attempt.
The Pelicans were within 97-94 with 3:24 left when Westbrook answered with a three-point play, then rebounded a New Orleans miss and drove the length of the floor for a layup that made it 102-94 with 2:47 left. He ended up scoring 12 of the Thunder’s final 15 points and finished with his third 40-point outing of the season.
"It’s just attack mode," Westbrook said. "Regardless of who is there, I know I’m kind of able to get in the paint and kind of disrupt the defense. My job is to be able to attack and take what the defense gives me."
Oklahoma City started slow but outscored the Pelicans 32-15 over the final 11 minutes of the second quarter to go up 53-45. The Thunder pushed their lead to 14 points in the third quarter but led only 80-74 entering the fourth.
Pelicans: Former Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who helped Oklahoma City to the 2012 NBA Finals, sat out for New Orleans with an injured right pectoral, but still received a technical foul while on the bench during the first quarter. He visited the Thunder locker room after the game, chatting with Westbrook and Dion Waiters, among others. Westbrook described Perkins as a "big brother to me." . Starting center Omer Asik missed the game with a stomach illness and guard Norris Cole was out with an ankle sprain . The Pelicans made all nine of their free-throw attempts, compared to 27-of-40 for Oklahoma City.
Thunder: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the game, ahead of Durant’s induction on Thursday into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame . Oklahoma City assistant coach Monty Williams was the Pelicans’ head coach for five seasons before being fired at the end of the 2014-15 campaign . Waiters missed a breakaway layup during a five-minute scoreless stretch for Oklahoma City in the first quarter and immediately put his hands on his head in disbelief.
DURANT `DOING MORE’
Donovan said before the game he hadn’t spoken yet with the team’s medical personnel, but noted Durant "is doing more physically" as he works his way back from a hamstring injury sustained Nov. 10 against Washington. The team said then Durant would be reassessed in seven to 10 days.
Durant, wearing compression pants and practice shorts, spent about 10 minutes shooting before Wednesday’s game.
Gentry said the Pelicans can take a lesson from last season’s Thunder team, which started 3-12 and battled injuries all season and still finished 45-37, losing out to New Orleans on a tiebreaker for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth.
"It is a really long NBA season and very few teams go through a whole season without having some difficulty somewhere along the line," Gentry said. ". I do think that when we get healthy, we’ll be a pretty good basketball team. I don’t have any doubt about that."
Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Friday night.
Thunder: Host New York on Friday night.
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