The Hornets swept the Thunder last year, swept the Sonics the year before that, and won the first of three games this season. You have to figure that sooner or later this would have to come to a halt, and tonight in New Orleans it did, to the tune of 103-99.
In the absence of Chris Paul, who’s out for a month or so, the Bees deployed a rookie backcourt: Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. They were up to the challenge: Thornton had 22 points, and Collison served up nine of the Hornets’ 31 (!) assists. Emeka Okafor held down the middle nicely enough 14 points, 12 boards and you have to figure that sooner or later Peja Stojakovic is going to nail a trey. (He was three-for-eight.) What you don’t figure, though, is for Peja to be a defensive stalwart, and he caught the Thunder napping: four steals, one blocked shot.
But the Thunder were actually making most of their shots: 42 of 73, for 57.5 percent. (Nenad Krstić made seven of eight for 14 points.) The Big Three were big again: Jeff Green, who seems to get more minutes than anyone of late, picked up 14, Russell Westbrook double-doubled with 26 points and 10 assists (and 8 rebounds), and that Durant fellow, averaging a hair under 30, put in exactly 30, including the last two free throws to ice the game. OKC had a slight advantage on the boards, 43-37, though the Hornets got twice as many offensive rebounds.
What mattered, though, was opening up some space. The Thunder, 8th in the West, were one game up on the Hornets; now it’s two, and the season series is tied at one each. (There are only three games in the series this year.)
Only two more games, both on the road, before the All-Star break.