Durant, Thunder strike down Bobcats, 116-94
It wasn't nearly as bad the result a few months ago, but the Oklahoma City once again had the Charlotte Bobcats' number on Friday.
Trailing by a point after the first quarter, the Thunder outscored the Bobcats 88-65 in the final three quarters of play, eventually picking up a 116-94 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Forward Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer at 28.7 points per game, led Oklahoma City (46-16) in the win with 19 points, seven assists and six points.
“We were a little sluggish," Durant said. "I think we did a good job of bouncing back from that. It was a good win for us. This (Charlotte) team has nothing to lose. They play so hard, they’ve got a great coach and, they’ve got a great group of young guys, so we knew they were going to come out blazing. I think we did a good job of taking that first punch and kept fighting after that.”
The Bobcats, who fall to 13-49 on the season, were blown out on the road by the Thunder earlier this season, 114-69, on Nov. 26, 2012.
Charlotte started Friday's game strong, led by guard Gerald Henderson, who scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter.
Henderson said he tried to make up for the absence of Ramon Sessions, who will miss 2-4 weeks after injuring his left knee in Wednesday's 99-78 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
"I try to be in attack mode at all times," Henderson said. "Not particularly just to shoot the ball, but to put pressure on the defense so it opens up things for my teammates. It’s just tough not having (Sessions) out there, but he will be back when he heals up. It just means someone else has to step up.”
Henderson's play helped Charlotte lead 29-28 after the first quarter.
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap was pleased with his team's quick start, but was disappointed in the play from Charlotte during the next three quarters.
"Coming out of that first quarter, it was good basketball for us, as far as establishing a tone," Dunlap said. "Unfortunately, we were hitting a desert as far as the scoring goes, and we let it bleed in a little into our aggressiveness with our defense.”
A 17-0 run to start the second quarter carried the Thunder into a lead they did not relinquish.
Derek Fisher sparked the run with eight points, including a couple of 3-pointers.
Fisher, who has played in 13 games for Oklahoma City this season after coming out of semi-retirement, said it has been a smooth transition for him in re-joining the team he played 20 games for last year.
“Having spent three months with this team last year, this year has been seamless," he said. "The second group is obviously different without James Harden, but we’re finding ways to be effective. Kevin Martin is a great basketball player. Reggie Jackson is continuing to improve and develop, so we’re finding our way. Hopefully by the postseason, we’ll be able to have a second unit that, no matter what the situation calls for, we can go out and help the team win.”
Ahead by double digits in the entire second half, the Thunder, who were playing their fourth game in five days, sat most of their starters, including Durant and guard Russell Westbrook.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks stands behind his decision to sit out his top players, especially after a 95-94 victory the night prior against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
”I think it is always important to rest your starters if you have a chance," Brooks said. "You don’t go into a game thinking that way because this is such a competitive league, but it was nice to have that opportunity tonight.”
Behind Henderson's 21-point performance, Ben Gordon added 19 points off of the bench for the Bobcats.
Charlotte tries to end its eight-game skid when it travels to Washington on Saturday. The Bobcats return home on Tuesday against the Boston Celtics.
With exactly 20 games now left in the season, Henderson said the Bobcats will continue to try to get better.
“Just like every other team, we come in here every day and work on getting better — whether it’s film or up there on the practice court," Henderson said. "You put a lot of time and effort into trying to have a good product out there on the floor. If anything, it’s going out there, playing for each other and just trying to compete every night.”