With the first-half game clock running out, Russell Westbrook dribbled up the right wing needing to make a play.
He could have shot his patented pull-up jumper, or set up a teammate with another one of the pinpoint passes he dished all night, or sliced his way into the lane for a simple layup.
If you blinked, you might have missed what Westbrook ultimately settled on.
And what a shame if you did.
In a split second, the Thunder point guard blew past a helpless Kemba Walker, using a lightning quick first step to throw down an emphatic one-handed dunk. It brought the crowd to its feet, punctuated the pummeling Oklahoma City put on Charlotte and showed exactly how explosive this bunch can be.
The play put the Thunder ahead by 40 at halftime in a game that only got worse for the visitors as Oklahoma City went on to defeat the Bobcats 114-69 on Monday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The 45-point win set a mark for the franchise’s largest margin of victory in the Oklahoma City era.
“They were sleeping,” Westbrook said of the Bobcats’ defense on the play that allowed his high-flying dunk. “I just saw everybody’s head turned so I just decided to go and try to take off.”
Westbrook’s forceful dunk capped a 17-1 Thunder run to end the second quarter. It put OKC ahead 64-24 at the break, and the Bobcats’ point total going into the locker room became the fewest allowed in the Thunder era.
Oklahoma City led by as many as 54 points, embarrassing the Bobcats 79-25 with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter. That’s when Thunder coach Scott Brooks called off the dogs and inserted reserves Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III and Hasheem Thabeet. Rookie guard Jeremy Lamb replaced sixth man Kevin Martin at the start of the fourth quarter, and the starters never needed to return.
“It’s obviously one of our best games we’ve played on both ends of the floor,” Brooks said. “It’s a combination of a few things. We really played good basketball, passing, defending and they had a bad night. Let’s face it. (Charlotte) has been playing good basketball to start the season. We all will go through a game like this. It happens.”
At 7-5 coming in, the Bobcats walked into Chesapeake Energy Arena having matched their win total from last season, when they set the NBA record for the worst winning percentage. But this looked to be a new and improved club. Charlotte had won six of its past eight entering Monday’s game.
It all came crashing down against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City held Charlotte to 29.1 percent shooting, well below the previous opponent low of 35.7 percent. Only one Bobcat, rookie guard Jeffery Taylor, scored at least 10 points.
The Thunder finished with more assists — netting a season-high 31 for the third time this season — than the Bobcats had field goals (23).
A 22-3 run by the Thunder from the 2:55 mark of the first quarter to the 8:20 mark of the second period pushed Oklahoma City’s lead from six to 25. Over that span, the Thunder held the Bobcats to 1-for-9 shooting and four turnovers.
“The key to the runs tonight was the defensive stops,” Brooks said. “We were contesting, we were rebounding and then we were getting out in transition. Those are the recipes for our success.”
Kevin Durant led a season-high tying six Thunder players in double-digit scoring with 18 points. Thabo Sefolosha scored a season-high 14, which included a career-high tying four 3-pointers. Westbrook notched his sixth double-double this season with 12 points and a game-high 11 assists, nine of them coming in the first half. Hasheem Thabeet recorded his first career double-double with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson added 12 points and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.
Everything after Westbrook’s jam, though, was just gravy.
“We work on that, actually,” Durant said. “At the end of the half we run the play and if I’m not open Russ will just take it. So much attention was drawn on the other side of the floor he took it himself. I didn’t think he was going to dunk it, but the stuff he do never amazes me.”