The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 3, 2014

Thunder runaway from Bobcats late

OKLAHOMA CITY — Coach Steve Clifford saw their was a problem early on. Before his Charlotte Bobcats even took the floor against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he knew something wasn't right.

Clifford intuition turned out to be true as the Bobcats fell to the Thunder 116-99 Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"We didn’t have the right mindset today," Clifford said. "Starting this morning at shootaround. We didn't have the mentality our team needed to play an elite team like this. I thought our energy level was low. We had poor energy to start the game."

For 3 1/2 quarters, they did as they kept the game close. But the Thunder used a three minute scoring outburst to put the contest away.

"The team kind of turned it from there," Thunder guard Reggie Jackson said. "We just got stops, tried to get out and run and use our athleticism to our advantage."

The Thunder (45-15) led by eight when Durant hit a turnaround jumper at the 5:43 mark in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City's defense forced Charlotte into a shot clock violation. It led to back to back layups by Durant and forward Serga Ibaka to push the advantage to 12 points.     

Charlotte (27-32) was forced to call its second time out in less than two minutes. That didn't prevent Ibaka from blocking a shot, assisting on point guard Russell Westbrook 3-pointer and then hitting his own from the top of the key.

After Jackson stole the ball from Charlotte guard Kemba Walker and went in for the easy layup, Oklahoma City's lead had ballooned from six to 20 in less than three minutes. Both teams then began to clear their bench.

Durant finished the night with 28 points, shooting 8-for-24 from the field to go along with five assists and six rebounds. As bad as his shooting numbers were, they were far from the worst shooting nights of his career, which was a 2-for-17 clip his rookie season.

"That's what a good scorers does," Bobcats center Al Jefferson said of Durant. "He's going to find a way to be apart of the game. Y'all say we slowed them down, sound like a great night to me."

Westbrook scored 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting. Ibaka added 15 points and 10 rebounds while Jackson came off the bench to score 17.

 Jefferson paced the Bobcats with 25 points and seven boards. Forward Anthony Tolliver added 17 points and Gary Neal scored 12.

With frigid temperatures outside the arena, Durant and Westbrook started the game on fire. The duo combined for 21 of the teams 31 first points on 8-for-13 shooting.

"I was just trying to take my time," Westbrook said. "I'll take whatever shot is given to me, but at the dame time to take my time and knock them down. The more I play, the more rhythm I'm able to catch and the more rhythm I'm able to get."

Yet, the Bobcats stayed close behind three-point shooting and Jefferson working over the Thunder big men in the paint. Ibaka and center Steven Adams had three fouls each in the first half trying to contend with Jefferson around the rim

But it was the ability of Charlotte to run its offense through forward Josh McRoberts that Oklahoma City had the biggest difficulties dealing with Sunday night. The Bobcats trailed 61-55 at halftime.

After his first quarter start, Durant went cold and missed his next 14 shots. It wasn't until Durant drove to the basket for a dunk over Tolliver that he got his first field goal of second half. Thunder led by four heading into the fourth.

"They are a great team," Jefferson said. "You have to play 48 minutes against them. You can't have too many mistakes."

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