NEW ORLEANS — Nothing troublesome about this one.
That's how Thunder coach Scott Brooks wanted it, and it's exactly how it should have been.
Oklahoma City thoroughly dominated an injury-ravaged Hornets squad on Saturday night, taking control early and eliminating any concern of a letdown before cruising to a 100-79 victory inside New Orleans Arena.
The win was the Thunder's fifth straight and second blowout victory in two weeks against a struggling Hornets team hovering near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Oklahoma City led by as many as 29 points and never trailed after taking a 7-6 lead with 9:06 left in the first quarter.
It was the kind of performance that separates the good teams from the great teams and showed just how much this Thunder team is maturing.
The Hornets were without No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, who is suffering from a stress reaction in his left ankle, and continues to be without shooting guard Eric Gordon. But the Thunder remained focused despite staring at a short-handed team playing without its best two players. The Thunder also played as if it didn't thump these same Hornets, with Davis, by 15 points two weeks ago, something Brooks cautioned before the game is one of the toughest things to do.
“This is a game in the past where, on a back-to-back and a place we won rather handedly last time we were here, we might have came in without focus,” said Nick Collison. “But we didn't do that tonight. We came in and played the right way.”
Russell Westbrook scored 18 points with five rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Thunder. It was his eighth double-double of the year and the sixth time he's finished with at least 10 assists. Much like his last trip to New Orleans, Westbrook set the tone with his defensive pressure against Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez and helped shut down the Hornets entire offense. Vasquez scored just five points on 2-for-8 shooting with seven assists and three turnovers.
The Thunder held the Hornets to 37 percent shooting and forced New Orleans into 17 turnovers, which led to 20 OKC points.
“I put a big emphasis on myself to come out every night defending,” Westbrook said. “That's what I've been trying to do all season long.”
The Thunder improved to 14-4 after winning for the eighth time in the past nine games. Over those eight victories, the Thunder has won by an average margin of 17.3 points.
“As a team,” Westbrook said, “we're doing a better job of not focusing on who we're playing but focusing on ourselves and trying to find ways where we can get better.”
The Thunder led 54-44 at halftime, paced by Kevin Durant's 13 points. Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Martin added 10 apiece in the first half. Oklahoma City led by as many as 18 on three occasions in the second quarter, but this time the Hornets hung in longer than they did last time.
The Thunder, however, clamped down in the third quarter and outscored New Orleans 30-13 to pull away.
With the win, the Thunder moved to 5-0 in the second night of back-to-back games this season.
“We talked about it before the game. These games are really tests for us,” Collison said. “These are where we can really grow. When you're on a back-to-back and you're tired it's easy to give in but the good teams are able to fight that off mentally. We've been up and down the last couple of years with that. The season's young. But so far our focus has been a lot better.”