OKLAHOMA CITY -- After blowing out the New Orleans Hornets in the teams' two previous matchups, the Oklahoma City Thunder wasn't expecting a tough night Wednesday. However, the Thunder found themselves in a battle at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After a slow start, Kevin Durant showed why he is once again a MVP candidate, scoring 13 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 92-88 victory.
The win was the ninth in a row for Oklahoma City (18-4), but the Thunder's string of 12 consecutive games scoring more than 100 points ended.
The Hornets (5-16) had their chances to steal the win. With less than two minutes left, New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis hit four consecutive free throws to get his team within two points.
Oklahoma City then went to Durant, who drove into the lane and was fouled as he made the layup. The ensuing free throw gave the Thunder a 89-84 advantage.
After another Davis free throw, the Hornets came up with a offensive rebound, and Brian Roberts knocked down a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left, slicing New Orleans' deficit to 89-88.
Durant hit one of two from the line, and New Orleans had one last chance to tie or win the game with eight seconds remaining. The Hornets got the ball to Greivis Vasquez, but Kendrick Perkins forced him into a off-balance 3-pointer that missed the mark. New Orleans missed the tip-in, and Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha put the game away with two free throws.
Roberts paced New Orleans with 16 points off the bench on 6-for-14 shooting. Ryan Anderson scored 14, but only four of his points came in the last three quarters.
Kevin Martin came off the bench to score 17 for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook shot 4-for-14 en route to 14 points, but he dished out nine assists.
NOTES: According to reports, the Washington Wizards had a deal on the table this summer with Oklahoma City to trade for James Harden, but Wizards owner Ted Leonis didn't pull the trigger because he didn't want to hand out a five-year, $80 million contract to Harden. The trade would have sent Harden to Washington in exchange for rookie guard Bradley Beal and second year forward Chris Singleton. ... Durant and Vasquez have known each other since they were in high school at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. ... New Orleans' Robin Lopez blocked four shots. He entered play eighth in the NBA in blocked shots with an average of 2.1 per game. ... Whether he is coming off the bench or in the starting lineup, Anderson has been the Hornets' most consistent player this season. In his first year with the team, he leads them in scoring, rebounds and 3-point field goals made. But it's the other aspects of his game that have impressed coach Monty Williams. "His leadership has been huge for us," Williams said. "I didn't have any clue that our team would lean on him as much as they have. They really respect Ryan for the kind of person that he is. He is about as solid of a person that I've been around since I've been in the league."