Thunder Cruise Past Hornets

By Randy Renner

It set up as a bit of a trap game for the Thunder. OKC afterall had just beaten the Spurs in San Antonio on Christmas Day and the Thunder were about to fly back to Texas for a game with the Mavericks in Dallas, so Charlotte at home might not catch their interest.

Except on this night the Thunder were ready from the start and blitzed the bees 98-75 in a game that wasn't even that close.

The Oklahoma City defense was locked and loaded and dominated the Hornets who just never could get anything going despite a four game winning streak coming in where they had'nt scored less than 104 points.

The Thunder led by as many as 31 points and allowed Charlotte to shoot just 28.7 percent. That's the worst the Hornets have shot all season (33.0% at Atlanta on 11/29) and it's the stingiest the Thunder defense has been all season (28.8% vs. Houston on 11/16). 

"It's hard to hold an NBA team to 28 percent," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. "They were playing good coming in but we just came out and played great defense." 

The Thunder were concerned about Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and center Al Jefferson but neither could do anything. Walker scored six points on 2-for-13 shooting and Jefferson scored just four on 2-for-7.

"We kept Jefferson from getting any easy shots tonight," Brooks said.  "I'm really proud of our effort tonight. We locked in defensively through out the game."

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook had another huge night with 29 points on 11-for-21 shooting. He has now strung together 15 straight games of at least 20 points, the longest such streak of his career. 

Serge Ibaka dominated the glass with 14 rebounds, a season-high and he scored 13 points, knocking down three 3s. 

Overall it was a solid night especially considering it was the second night of a back-to-back. 

"Just playing our game and doing a good job of playing at a good pace," Westbrook said. "Taking advatage of our home crowd and our home court." 

The Thunder won't practice on Saturday, they'll just fly to Dallas in the afternoon and get ready for Sunday evening's game with the Mavs. 

A win will finally get the now 15-16 Thunder to .500, a mark they haven't been able to reach yet this season.