CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the middle of a stretch of four games in five nights and have been facing a long list of tough opponents lately, so their easy 116-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night was a welcome respite.
The Thunder opened the second quarter with a 19-0 run and led by as many as 29 points in the third quarter, allowing coach Scott Brooks to rest Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of his starters throughout the fourth quarter.
It might have seemed predictable for an Oklahoma City team that has won four straight, seven of its last eight, and had beaten the Bobcats by 45 in Oklahoma City earlier this season. But coming after a 95-94 win at New York on Thursday night, it was just what Brooks was hoping for.
"You don't go into any game thinking you'll get to rest your starters the whole fourth quarter, because it's such a competitive league and there's so many good teams," Brooks said. "But it's nice to have that opportunity. Tonight we did have that and we took advantage, and I thought our bench played well."
The Thunder, 46-16, have beaten the Clippers, Lakers and Knicks during their winning streak and now face Boston at home on Sunday and San Antonio on the road - in a continuing battle for best record in the Western Conference - on Monday.
"It was good to have a game like this," Durant said. "I played 44 last night, Russ played 40, Serge (Ibaka) played 40, and tonight we all played basically a half of basketball. That's good to get re-energized for the next game, and it's also good that we have such a deep team."
Durant led the way with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 24 minutes. Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha scored 13 each, Ibaka had 12 points and seven rebounds and Westbrook and Kevin Martin scored 11 each.
The Thunder shot 62.2 percent from the field in the first half and finished at 56.8 percent despite some sloppy play at the end. That moves the Thunder to 21-1 this season when they shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
Oklahoma City was 12 of 24 from 3-point range, with Sefolosha, Martin and Fisher each hitting three apiece.
"We're a good 3-point shooting team, first of all," Brooks said. "And we always tell our guys, if you spot up, make sure you're behind the line, because as a team we shoot nearly 40 percent. So anytime our guys have open threes, we want them to shoot without hesitation because their teammates and their coaches believe in them. I thought tonight, the ball movement was good. It's always good with our team when we move the basketball and share like we did tonight."
Oklahoma City's 19-0 run to open the second quarter came with Durant and Westbrook on the bench. Fisher had two 3-pointers and a layup during the run, and Martin also hit a 3-pointer. The Bobcats went more than five minutes without scoring and missed 10 straight shots. Charlotte had led 29-28 after one quarter.
"I thought defensively that second quarter was really good," Brooks said. "The second unit came in and did a good job of locking in and playing defense. There's no question we're a good defensive team, we take pride in that. We were a little slow in the first five or six minutes of the game, but I thought after that we locked in."
The Bobcats, 13-49, have now lost nine straight and 17 of their last 19.
Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats with 21 points, including 17 in the first half. Ben Gordon scored 19, Jeff Adrien 12 and Kemba Walker 11.
"Coming out of that first quarter it was good basketball for us, as far as establishing a tone," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "Unfortunately, we were hitting a desert as far as the scoring goes (in the second quarter) and we let it bleed in a little into our aggressiveness with our defense."
Notes: The Bobcats expect guard Ramon Sessions to miss between 2-4 weeks after suffering an MCL sprain of his left knee in a 99-78 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday. Sessions won't require surgery, however. ... Westbrook played Friday night despite tweaking his ankle early in the New York game. ... Reggie Williams moved into the rotation in Sessions' place and played 19 minutes. He finished with five points, five rebounds and five assists. ... The Bobcats will play at Washington on Saturday night.