The mighty Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have Russell Westbrook available but they did have the league’s top scorer. Kevin Durant poured in 14 of his 34 points in the final quarter to go along with 12 rebounds, and the Thunder escaped the Charlotte Bobcats 89-85 Friday, for its seventh straight road win despite the absence of its All-Star guard.
“We just wanted to continue to play how we’ve been playing even with Russell out,” Durant explained. “I just tried to be aggressive, my shots were falling and my teammates were looking for me.”
Before the game, the Thunder announced their floor leader Westbrook underwent another arthroscopic surgery on his right knee − his third since April − and will be sidelined until after the All-Star break approximately 27 games.
The news was surprising because Westbrook was coming off his seventh career triple-double in a 123-94 rout of the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.
“He was playing great basketball, probably some of the best basketball in the entire league,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re looking forward to him coming back and getting back to the level that he has played at − and he will.”
Serge Ibaka and Theo Sefolosha netted 12 points apiece while Reggie Jackson added 10 on a frosty 4-of-19 shooting with six assists in place of Westbrook, as the Thunder (24-5) earned its 11th win in the last 12 games.
Oklahoma City led 76-74 with five minutes remaining when Durant drilled consecutive triples to spark a personal 10-4 run, opening up an 86-78 advantage. But Anthony Tolliver nailed a three-pointer and Kemba Walker had a breakaway layup, pulling the Bobcats within 86-83 with 49 seconds left.
After Durant’s missed jumper, Walker drove for an easy layup, cutting the lead to one. Jackson was fouled but the 94 per cent free throw shooter, split a pair from the stripe with 10.7 ticks left. With a shot to go ahead, Walker drove the lane out of a timeout and kicked it out to Josh McRoberts, who missed a wide-open three-pointer from the left wing with three seconds left. Sefolosha made two free throws and the Thunder escaped with its sixth consecutive victory over the Bobcats.
“It was an emotional day with Russell but we did a good job of handling it, Brooks said.”Now we have to continue to improve as the season goes on.”
Walker led the Bobcats with 18 points, while Al Jefferson had 16 with 11 rebounds.