OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Reggie Jackson gave an unexpected spark for the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.
But it was star Kevin Durant who scored 35 points as the Thunder extended their winning streak to nine games with a 92-88 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
"Reggie has been here for a year now," Durant said. "He knows what it takes. He's not pouting that he's not playing. He's coming in and working hard every single day, just waiting on his chance, and coach gave him a chance tonight.
"That shows how much he believes in all of us. He would have done that with anybody, and Reggie was the guy that came in and he gave us a really, really big spark.
"I'm really proud of him, his defensive intensity, hitting shots, just playing with a lot of energy. I'm glad he got that opportunity.
With the Thunder trailing by 11 points late in the third quarter, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks went with a small lineup, inserting Jackson alongside backup point guard Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin and Durant, and the Thunder closed the quarter on a 7-0 run. A 9-2 run, capped by a dunk by Durant, put the Thunder ahead 67-64.
Jackson played most of the fourth quarter, finishing with five points. It was his first action since Dec. 1 against New Orleans and only his 11th appearance for the Thunder in 22 games this season. He played for the D-League's Tulsa 66ers on Saturday.
"You've just got to stay ready," Jackson said. "Of course it's tough, but once you get out there, especially in this atmosphere, it's easy to get going."
With the win, the Thunder matched the second-best start in franchise history at 18-4. The Seattle SuperSonics started 20-2 in the 1993-94 season and the Thunder started 18-4 last season.
It was the Thunder's third win over the Hornets in the past four weeks and seventh straight in the series. Brian Roberts scored 16 points to lead New Orleans, which lost its fifth straight game.
Still, coach Monty Williams wasn't entirely displeased.
"I thought we competed tonight," Williams said. "I thought we brought an edge. Obviously we lost the game, but when we compete that way and keep our turnovers down, you give yourselves a chance."
Greivis Vasquez missed a 3-point attempt in the closing seconds that would have given New Orleans the lead. Thabo Sefolosha corralled the rebound and made the clinching free throws for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City, the league's highest-scoring team, entered the game with a 106-point average, but had its run of 12 straight triple-digit games end as it had to fight back simply to win against the worst team in the Western Conference.