OKLAHOMA CITY — Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford was looking for the right words to describe Russell Westbrook. It took him a few seconds, but Clifford may have coined the phrase “power one” when talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard.
Westbrook dismantled the Hornets backcourt for 29 points, leading the Thunder to a 98-75 victory Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It’s not just his size,” Clifford said. “He plays… he’s a power one. I think he’s a tough matchup.”
The Thunder moved to 15-16 on the season while the Hornets dropped to 10-20 as they watched their four-game winning streak end.
Coming off a 34-point outburst in Thursday’s win over San Antonio, Westbrook shot 11-of-21 to go along with five assists and six turnovers. He would be leading the NBA in scoring except he has played in enough games due to injuries.
“We just played our game,” Westbrook said. “Did a good job of playing at a good pace. We took advantage of our home crowd and our home court.”
Oklahoma City was on its game early to start the night. Led by Westbrook’s constant attacking on the offensive end, the Hornets were thrown off kilter.
Whether it was in fast break opportunities or set plays Westbrook put pressure on Charlotte’s defenders, especially forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who could be seen pleading with officials after each foul called on him while guarding Westbrook.
The Hornets tried to respond with center Al Jefferson and forward Cody Zeller but they were contained by Oklahoma City center Steven Adams and forward Serge Ibaka.
Ibaka had it going on both ends of the floor as he finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots while holding Jefferson to four points on 2-of-7 shooting.
“The bigs did a good job, especially Serge,” Thunder forward Perry Jones said. “It’s a little bit of a relief. You get beat, sometimes you make a mistake, you got Serge there swatting shots. It gives us a chance to pressure a lot more be more aggressive defensively.”
Charlotte could get nothing going on offense. With the Thunder controlling the paint, the Hornets looked to the perimeter game and their shots weren’t falling.
Despite scoring more than 100 points during its previous four games, Clifford had said his team needed to play better offense. He didn’t get it in Oklahoma City as the Hornets team shot 30 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Thunder had emptied its bench and the Hornets soon followed.
Reserve guard Brian Roberts led Charlotte with 17 points. Forward Marvin Williams was the only other Hornet to reach double figures in scoring as he posted 11 points.
“I think it was one of those nights, man,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “Everybody has them in the NBA. On to the next game and that’s tomorrow.”
NOTES: After missing the Christmas Day game against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, injured Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant sat out again Friday night when the Thunder played the Charlotte Hornets. Durant has now missed the past five games with a sprained right ankle. “I can’t play basketball,” Durant said. “I can’t run. I can’t cut. I can’t jump. I’m not just sitting out just because. If I could play I would play. But I can’t play.” However, Durant did participate in parts of the team’s shootaround Friday. … Charlotte G Lance Stephenson also missed his fifth straight game with a pelvic sprain. Hornets coach Steve Clifford said there is no timetable for Stephenson’s return. … Clifford said the biggest change in G Kemba Walker’s the past two weeks has been his shooting. “He’s really played very, very well all year at both ends of the floor,” Clifford said. “He didn’t shoot the ball as well early.” … After starting 13 games for Oklahoma City in November, F Lance Thomas has been chained to the bench in December. Thomas had played a total of four minutes and was riding a streak of 10 DNPs before seeing action against the Hornets.
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