OKLAHOMA CITY — After blowing out the New Orleans Hornets in the teams’ two previous matchups, the Oklahoma City Thunder wasn’t expecting a tough night Wednesday. However, the Thunder found themselves in a battle at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After a slow start, Kevin Durant showed why he is once again an MVP candidate, scoring 13 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 92-88 victory.
The win was the ninth in a row for Oklahoma City (18-4), but the Thunder’s string of 12 consecutive games scoring more than 100 points ended.
Even a team fresh off a trip to the NBA finals can still learn things about itself.
“It’s a long season,” Durant said. “You have to take it a game at time. I think last game and this game were a good test for us to see how we are going to fight through adversity. We had been making shots lately, and for us to miss and miss over and over, to stick with our defense was really inspiring us to keep playing.”
The Hornets (5-16) had their chances to steal the win. With less than two minutes left, New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis hit four consecutive free throws to get his team within two points.
Oklahoma City then went to Durant, who drove into the lane and was fouled as he made the layup. The ensuing free throw gave the Thunder an 89-84 advantage.
“Coach’s always telling me to be extra aggressive,” Durant said. “I just found some lanes, and my teammates did a great job of drawing and kicking and I made some shots.”
After another Davis free throw, the Hornets came up with an offensive rebound, and Brian Roberts knocked down a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, slicing New Orleans’ deficit to 89-88.
Durant hit one of two from the line, and New Orleans had one last chance to tie or win the game with eight seconds remaining. The Hornets got the ball to Greivis Vasquez, but Kendrick Perkins forced him into an off-balance 3-pointer that missed the mark. New Orleans missed the tip-in, and Oklahoma City’s Thabo Sefolosha put the game away with two free throws.