Westbrook's intensity helps Oklahoma City roll

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS - The thunder and lightning started early and ended late, and as usual, Russell Westbrook was in the middle of the meteorological firestorm.
While Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin poured in 27 points each and combined for 10 3-pointers to power the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-95 rout of the New Orleans Hornets Friday, all Thunder coach Scott Brooks could talk about was the aggressive play of Westbrook, who overcame a weak 3-of-11 shooting night to dish out 12 of his team's 31 assists and suffocate the Hornets' overmatched point guards with his patented chest-to-chest defense.
"This was one of his better games on both ends of the floor," Brooks said of Westbrook. "He was disruptive. When he plays like that, he puts a lot of pressure on their point guards to run the offense. I thought his effort and intensity were highest I've ever seen."
The Thunder (7-3) scored a season-high 110 points, nailing a franchise-record 14 3-pointers on 29 attempts. They moved the ball so well in and around the Hornets' defense that most of Durant's and Martin's 3-pointers were wide open.
Durant made 4-of-5 from behind the arc, and Martin was 6-of-11, matching his season high for made 3s. The Thunder's 48.3 percentage on long-range jumpers surpassed the Hornets' 42.3 percent overall shooting.
"It's a fun game when the basketball game is played that way and you're up 30 at halftime," Martin said, who had 22 first-half points in just 14 minutes as the Thunder took a 66-37 lead. "They couldn't stop our ball movement. Everybody was unselfish, and we got great results."
The Thunder, who also got 15 points from Serge Ibaka, scored the first five points of the second half to take a 71-37 lead and coasted the rest of the way.
Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis suffered through a lackluster performance, making just 4 of 14 shots and finishing with eight points. Ryan Anderson led the Hornets, who lost their second consecutive game, with 15 points off the bench.
The game got chippy at the end of the half when the Hornets, with a foul to give, had Greivis Vasquez shove Westbrook hard out front. When Westbrook missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, he and Vasquez exchanged words and were given double technicals, prompting normally mild-mannered Hornets coach Monty Williams to start jawing at halfcourt with Durant.
After the game, Williams met briefly with Brooks and talked about the dust-up.
"I have a lot of respect for Monty," Brooks said. "It was the heat of the moment. He said, 'You know what, let's move on.' That was very classy on his behalf."
Williams said his players need to learn to play with more "force" for 48 minutes.
"That's something that's concerning for me because that's what we've done around here," Williams said. "In the past couple of games, I haven't seen the kind of effort from the start of the game."
Notes: Hornets executive vice president Mickey Loomis, who also serves as GM of the New Orleans Saints, announced before the game that team owner Tom Benson had given a multiyear contract extension to Hornets GM Dell Demps. That follows on the heels of an extension given to Williams, the head coach. "It's an unbelievable feeling," Demps said. "We have a plan. We want to achieve sustained success. We got a young core right now, and we want to see those guys grow and play together. We want to compete at the highest level."... A key piece of the puzzle is shooting guard Eric Gordon, who signed a four-year, $58 million contract during the offseason but has played only nine games in the last two seasons because of a lingering knee injury. In the midst of fan unrest, Gordon has been rehabbing the knee in Los Angeles. Are the Hornets -- and Demps -- facing the NBA's version of the "financial cliff" because of Gordon's uncertain future? "We're getting reports," Demps said. "He's working out. He's doing everything under his power to get back. I know he's eager to get back and play. We're just supporting him and hoping that his rehab goes well."... Brooks said before Friday's game he hopes to adjust OKC's rotation to give Durant an earlier and more extended rest. During the Thunder's 6-3 start, Durant averaged 39.4 minutes per game... The Thunder are 38-9 in bounce-back games after a loss over the last two seasons... This was Westbrook's fourth game with at least 10 assists. He had just four games of at least 10 assists all last season.

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