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OKC Thunder holds off Hornets 101-93

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 31 points apiece and the Thunder avoided blowing a 26-point lead.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 20, 2012

No one was quite sure what to expect.

Forget a trap game, Sunday's epic overtime thriller turned Monday's meeting with New Orleans into the ultimate mystery.

After a six-point win against Denver in what many have deemed the game of the season, the Thunder was spent, certainly physically and perhaps mentally and emotionally as well. An hour before tipoff, Thunder coach Scott Brooks announced that bench anchors James Harden and Nick Collison had sustained aches and ailments in that instant classic that were severe enough to keep them out of their first game this season.

And the Hornets were coming in hot, winners of three straight despite being at the bottom of the Western Conference Standings.

“Who knows what tonight's game is going to bring,” Brooks confessed before the game.

Three hours later, the Thunder again showed what it's made of.

Oklahoma City handled the injury-plagued but pesky Hornets rather easily in a 101-93 win inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder led by as many as 26 and narrowly missed its third wire-to-wire win of the season — and second against these Hornets — after trailing by just one on the night but taking the lead for good 4 minutes, 46 seconds into the opening period.

“I thought that team just took it to us from the jump,” admitted New Orleans coach Monty Williams.

If there was a concern about focus being an issue, the Thunder put it to rest early. OKC jumped to a 31-18 lead after a fantastic first period in which eight players scored and the Thunder assisted on seven of its 14 field goals. The Thunder also held the Hornets to 5-for-20 shooting in the period and forced six New Orleans turnovers.

That, ladies and gents, was the ballgame.

It only grew worse over the next 12 minutes, as the Thunder used a 29-20 second quarter to extend its lead to 22 by halftime. The Hornets shot just 12 of 42, that 28.6-percent clip nearly matching the opponent low for field goal percentage in the first half (26.8 percent set by Detroit on Jan. 23).

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