NEW ORLEANS — Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks has a way to rest his starters during challenging schedule situations such as back-to-back games.
Against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night at New Orleans Arena, the Thunder increased the intensity and defensive pressure from quarter to quarter. When the game mercifully ended, Oklahoma City had won in a cakewalk 100-79 for its fifth consecutive victory.
“We had a good start and were able to sustain our energy throughout the game,” Brooks said. “We played well tonight on both ends of the court.”
So one-sided was its victory that its starters sat out the entire fourth quarter. Kevin Durant scored 20 points and led five teammates in double figures, an almost impossible formula for an opponent to overcome.
Guard Kevin Martin, who torched the Hornets (4-11) in the first meeting Nov. 16, had 19 points, followed by point guard Russell Westbrook with 18 points and 10 rebounds, reserve power forward Nick Collison with 12 points, and Kendrick Perkins, not usually a scoring threat, with 10.
The Thunder (14-14) blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Hornets 30-13. By the time the quarter ended, Oklahoma City shot 53.2 percent for the game compared with the Hornets’ 38.1, holding New Orleans to 3-of-18 on 3-point shooting.
“I thought we competed, but we didn’t play smart,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “But that falls on me, the coach. Some of our guys were playing their best. I have to get them in better positions to succeed.”
The loss was the ninth in 10 games for the Hornets, who were without their best player, rookie Anthony Davis, for the seventh consecutive game. Nonetheless, the Hornets had all but vowed to compete harder than they did the first time the teams met, a 15-point Thunder victory at the Arena. The Hornets tried hard but simply were no match against a deep and talented team with designs on returning to the NBA Finals.
Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, again starting in place of Davis, had 21 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs. However, Anderson, one of the league’s top 3-point shooters, was held to 3-of-11 from behind the stripe. Center Robin Lopez had 12 points and guard Roger Mason 11.
Thunder starting guard Thabo Sefalosha said playing the Hornets for the second time in 16 days played a part in his team’s defensive showing.
“Basically, we know they have some good pick-and-pop guys,” he said. “But our bigs were helping the point guards, and after a while, everybody had really gotten tuned in.”
The Hornets were held to 6-of-20 shooting in the third. New Orleans had seven points in the first 3½ minutes. Oklahoma City shot 63.2 percent in the quarter, which included making four of six 3-point attempts.
By the quarter’s end, the Hornets looked tired, beaten and bewildered, especially after Westbrook added insult with a take-no-prisoners 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer that made it 84-57.
Durant opened the quarter with a 3-pointer, dunked a lob from Westbrook two minutes later, and a little more than a minute after that dribbled around his back and hit Sefalosha for a layup and 65-51 lead.
The Hornets trailed 54-44 at halftime.
Copyright © 2015, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved