NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Pelicans 7-footer Jason Smith stepped outside for the type of mid-range jumper he hits routinely, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka sprang out to the perimeter and blocked the shot.
While the Thunder can usually rely on plenty of scoring from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it was a concerted defensive effort in the second half that helped them build and keep a comfortable lead down the stretch in a 109-95 victory over New Orleans on Friday night.
"Everybody did a great job helping each other on defense and there was more communication," said Ibaka, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and three of the Thunder's 11 blocks. "Our focus was to contest every shot and make them make tough shots. Some nights they will make them but I think tonight we did a great job and that was the key."
Durant scored 29 points and Westbrook added 25 as Oklahoma City beat New Orleans for the ninth straight time and 14th in 15 meetings. Most of those games occurred when New Orleans' team was called the Hornets.
Ryan Anderson scored 18 for the Pelicans, who lost their second straight at home while playing their third full game without power forward Anthony Davis, sidelined by a broken left hand. New Orleans also lost guard Tyreke Evans to a left ankle sprain late in the third quarter, and soon afterward Oklahoma City built a 15-point lead.
"I hate to say we didn't play well. We just missed so many shots in the paint," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "Whether they blocked the shot or distracted us, or we threw it up there and just didn't make it, I thought that messed with us a little."
New Orleans raced to an early double-digit lead, only to fall behind 58-52 by halftime after Westbrook pulled up for a quick 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in the quarter and Reggie Jackson hit another with 2.7 seconds left.
Westbrook said he was just trying to assure his team two possessions inside the last 38 seconds.
"It worked out for us," he said. "We got two 3s out of it. They got nothing."