OKLAHOMA CITY — Forward Kevin Durant scored 27 points to lead Oklahoma City to a 116-94 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder (58-21) now need one more win or a loss by the Los Angeles Clippers to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They can wrap it up Sunday when they face the struggling Indiana Pacers on the road.
Durant shot 10-of-18 to go with six rebounds and five assists. Guard Russell Westbrook added 24 points and seven assists.
Yet, the most impressive state line belong to forward Serge Ibaka, who racked up 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocked shots in only 30 minutes of action.
Guard Austin Rivers and forward Darius Miller led the Pelicans (32-47) with 18 points each. Forward Tyreke Evans scored 13 before leaving with an injury in the second half. Center Alexis Ajinca added 12 points and newly acquired forward James Southerland scored 10 in his debut.
It was all about the big three early on for the Thunder. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka scored all 30 of the team’s first-quarter points as Oklahoma City led by seven.
After trailing by double figures, the Pelicans found a way to cut the deficit to six.
However, Durant led the Thunder on a 16-9 run to end the half. That included him streaking down the middle of the lane for a tomahawk dunk and throwing an alley-oop to forward Perry Jones. Oklahoma City led 60-47 at halftime.
The Thunder’s defense stayed at a high level in the second half and smothered the Pelicans.
Even when New Orleans thought it had an easy basket, the Thunder didn’t give up on the play. Midway through the third quarter, it looked like Rivers had an easy layup when he came up with a steal near midcourt. However, Ibaka chased him down and rejected the dunk attempt at the rim.
The Thunder took a 25-point advantage into the fourth quarter and put the game away.
The Pelicans started the night without center Anthony Davis and guard Eric Gordon. They then lost Evans and guard Brian Roberts to injuries in the second half.
NOTES: Even though New Orleans coach Monty Williams had no opinion on the MVP race, he did have high praise for Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant. “He’s a very unique player. Reminds me of what Len Bias would have been if he played in the league,” Williams said. “I think he’s the most unique guy I’ve seen, like Alex English, Glen Rice, Len Bias, all these guys all in one. He does everything.” … New Orleans signed F James Southerland for the rest of the season. He spent most of the season with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA’s D-League. He was averaging 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the D-Fenders. … In cooperation with the Thunder, UNICEF and F Serge Ibaka organized UNICEF Night on Friday. The fundraising and awareness project focuses on street children in the Congo who have been orphaned or separated from their families. Ibaka’s game shoes and jersey were auctioned to fans. “It is very important for me to try to give children a better present and a hope for their future,” Ibaka said. “I feel blessed that I was able to make a dream come true and play in the NBA, and I want the street children of Congo to have the chance to have a good future because they should be allowed to dream, too.”
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