Thunder 109, Pelicans 95

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Forward Kevin Durant scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the first half and guard Russell Westbrook added 25 to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 109-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at New Orleans Arena.
The Thunder (14-4) led 85-76 with 8:38 left when reserve guard Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and was fouled by guard Austin Rivers. Fisher converted the free throw for a four-point play, stretching the lead to 89-76.
The victory gave Oklahoma City a 2-1 road trip, its ninth win in 10 games and its ninth consecutive win over New Orleans (9-10). The Pelicans, who lost their second consecutive home game, were led by forward Ryan Anderson with 18 points and guard Eric Gordon with 16.
The Thunder shot 50.6 percent from the field and held the Pelicans to 37.5 percent shooting. Forward Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Oklahoma City.
Leading 58-52 at the half, the Thunder broke open the game with a 22-13 run over 10:25 of the third quarter to take an 80-65 lead. The Pelicans shot just 23 percent from the field in the quarter (6 of 26) and scored 16 points.
New Orleans also suffered the loss of backup guard Tyreke Evans, who went down awkwardly on his left ankle -- the same ankle he sprained in preseason -- after a layup attempt and had to be assisted to the locker room.
The Pelicans were in position to break a tie late in the first half, but Evans threw a wild, bullet pass out of bounds with 34 seconds left and the Thunder capitalized. Westbrook and reserve guard Reggie Jackson made back-to-back 3-pointers to put Oklahoma City up 58-52 at halftime.
Despite tight defense by Al-Farouq Aminu, Durant lit up the Pelicans with 19 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, and only one was from behind the arc. Westbrook added 17 points in the first half, including a 35-foot bailout shot that just beat the 24-second shot clock, tying the score at 34.
The Thunder shot a sizzling 58.8 percent from the field in the first half (20 of 34) and held the Pelicans to 45 percent shooting from the floor (18 of 40).
New Orleans led 22-11 late in the first quarter but then scored only four points in the next 8:08 as Oklahoma City built a 32-26 lead with 9:12 left in the second quarter.
Anderson led the Pelicans with 12 first-half points and Evans added 11.
NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he and his wife, Ingrid, were "really messed up" over the news of Nelson Mandela's death. Williams thought he might get to meet the former South African president three years ago, but an NBA-sponsored trip during the summer was canceled at the last minute because of Mandela's precarious health. "I was about as giddy as I've ever been about meeting anyone, but I didn't get a chance to do it," Williams said. "He's somebody that I not only look up to but somebody I strive to be like. We've just lost someone in our society we probably will never replace. It's amazing how they talked about him over there. They looked at him like he's the father of not just South Africa, but Africa in general." ... Thunder G Russell Westbrook missed the Friday shootaround because of sickness, but he started the game. ... Williams was still beaming about SF Al-Farouq Aminu's 20-rebound effort against Dallas on Wednesday. "Twenty rebounds in a game for a small forward is unique," Williams said. ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team was averaging 103.7 ppg, said playing fast fits the OKC style, "but good shots are more important. Quick shots aren't good unless they're good shots. We want to play fast, but we feel we can play a different style of basketball depending on what the time and the game needs."

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