By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has been saying all year that Kevin Durant was evolving into a point forward. Even though the three-time scoring champion still leads the league in scoring, he has shown flashes of being the all-around player his coach believes he can become.
When the Thunder hosted New Orleans on Wednesday, Durant backed up his coach’s words as he collected his second triple-double of the season to lead Oklahoma City to a 119-74 win over the struggling Hornets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The 45-point victory ties a season high.
“KD has the potential to get a triple-double many nights,” Brooks said. “He handles the ball a lot, he demands a lot of attention, so a lot of guys are going to be open because he has to be guarded a lot of the times by more than one. He’s a good playmaker.”
Durant finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and one turnover in only 27 minutes of work. Several of the assists were of the no-look variety that had the fans just as excited as if he scored 40 points.
“I think the triple-double is more fun,” Durant said. “All your teammates are involved in it. I’m a team guy. I enjoy seeing my guys hit shots or get a dunk. I just get excited.”
Not to be overshadowed, Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 29 points on 8-for-17 shooting. He was 12 for 12 from the free throw line. Serge Ibaka added 18 points and seven rebounds, and Kevin Martin scored 14 points off the bench.
Ryan Anderson was the only New Orleans starter to reach double figures. He scored all 14 of his points in the first half. The backcourt of Austin Rivers and Greivis Vasquez accounted for 15 points and 11 assists.
New Orleans (20-29) suffered one its worst defeats of the season. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon both sat out due to injuries.
“I think we let them get a little too comfortable,” Rivers said. “They were really comfortable when they were running their offense. It felt like they could just come in here and just win, and that’s what they did. I don’t think they felt us at all tonight. These games happen, but you have to at least fight.”
With New Orleans playing shorthanded, Westbrook took advantage from the outset. The All-Star point guard scored 18 points in the first period and almost outscored the Hornets by himself. The Thunder led 30-21 heading into the second. Newly acquired Derek Fisher entered the game for the first time to start the period.
But it was Anderson who made the biggest impact in the period as he kept finding himself wide-open around the 3-point line. He knocked down the open shots and closed Oklahoma City’s lead to six points with 3:30 left in the half.
Durant and Serge Ibaka spearheaded a 17-6 run to end the quarter and build a 62-45 lead at halftime.
Oklahoma City kept it rolling into the third quarter and found several ways to put the ball through the net, often on assists from Durant. His pass to Westbrook in the corner for a 3-pointer gave him his 10th and final assist for the night.
The Thunder led 96-60 heading into the fourth quarter, and the starters rested for the final 12 minutes.
“I got a good relationship with those guys at the scorers table,” Durant said. “We laugh and joke all the time, and tonight they told me I was one assist away. When you have a triple-double, people think it’s just about the guy that gets it. Your teammates make so many great plays to put you in position to do that.”
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