Durant, Thunder beat reeling Bobcats 99-81
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- While Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks got his team to respond from a sluggish outing with a dominant defensive effort, it seems nothing Charlotte coach Larry Brown says these days registers with his ragged bunch.
All it took to prove both points was a one-of-a-kind fourth quarter.
Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Thunder went from a one-point deficit entering the final period to playing their bench and holding down the score at the end in a 99-81 rout over the reeling Bobcats on Tuesday night.
How about a 25-3 run to start the period and a 31-12 thrashing over 12 minutes?
"It was a combination of them missing shots and us playing great defense," said Brooks, who indicated at shootaround he "flushed it out" with his team a day earlier following a loss to undermanned Phoenix. "We really focused on getting better defensively."
It was another embarrassing meltdown for the Bobcats, who missed their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter, threw the ball away five times and didn't get their first field goal until 2:52 remained, producing sarcastic cheers.
"The same things are happening again," Brown said. "We stand around, hold the ball and turn it over. We take bad shots. In that regard you see how much more athletic than we are. A turnover for them is a dunk."
Charlotte couldn't keep Durant off the free-throw line, where he hit 14 of 16 while adding seven rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 15 points, James Harden added 13 and Jeff Green scored nine of his 12 points in the decisive fourth.
The Thunder overcame 44 percent shooting by holding Charlotte to 40 percent from the field to earn their 20th win.
"We always talk about us being a team that bounces back pretty tough," Durant said. "That's what we wanted to do tonight. They're way better than their record shows."
Not lately. Stephen Jackson scored 20 points and Boris Diaw added 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists for the Bobcats, who dropped their fourth straight and fell 10 games under .500 as Brown continues to question their effort.
"We can't get five guys in the right spots on the court. So then you look disorganized," Brown said. "But I think some our young kids will have to play now and hopefully they get better. I have to figure out how I can coach better, and give them a better understanding of what we need to do."
With Charlotte coming off its third loss of 31 or more points in 10 days, general manager Rod Higgins said before the game he was "navigating the waters" about possible trades, but added nothing was imminent.
But while Brown said before the game they needed a "personality change" instead of a lineup change, he did make some moves.
Kwame Brown replaced Nazr Mohammed at center and Matt Carroll started in place of Dominic McGuire with Gerald Wallace missing his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Then point guard D.J. Augustin picked up two quick fouls. That gave Shaun Livingston and Sherron Collins, called up from the NBA Development League earlier in the day, big minutes in the first half.
The Bobcats lost Mohammed to a strained left hamstring in the third quarter. But they were in the game until a nightmare final period that left Brown again taking shots at his team.
"Can you blame him?" said Jackson, who had five of Charlotte's 15 turnovers.
After Jackson's three-point play to end the third, Charlotte hit 4-of-16 shots in the fourth as Brown couldn't find a combination that worked.
Even with the Thunder again without center Nenad Krstic (back), they enjoyed a 44-32 edge on the glass and took 10 more free throws.
"We didn't always make the correct play," Brooks said, "but the effort was always there."
It doesn't seem like that's the case with Charlotte.
"I have to make them understand how valuable the ball is, how to run from defense to offense and offense to defense, how to block out, share the ball," Brown said. "You can't stop telling them, you can't stop coaching it.
"It's a lot deeper than that."
Notes: Westbrook drew gasps with his one-handed stab of Collins' bullet pass at midcourt before feeding Durant for a dunk in the second quarter. ... The Thunder were hopeful Krstic would be able to play, but Brooks said his back stiffened up after Tuesday's workout. He was seen getting his lower back iced after shootaround. "There's no pressure on him to return," Brooks said. ... Bobcats owner Michael Jordan wasn't in his courtside seat.
Updated December 21, 2010