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Oklahoma City Thunder goes small to hold off Hornets, extend win streak to 9

Oklahoma City used its small lineup to escape with a 92-88 win over the Western-Conference-worst Hornets on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and, in the process, extended its winning streak to nine games.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 12, 2012

“They were making shots,” said Durant, who scored a game-high 35 points. “They were spreading us out … and hitting tough shots over us. Once you get their confidence going early in the game, then the basket starts to get wider for them.”

When Maynor came in for Perkins with 21/2 minutes left in that third quarter, joining Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin, Durant and Nick Collison, the Thunder immediately became better suited to switch on screens and stay in front of the Hornets' ballhandlers. The defense started getting deflections and scoring in transition.

Second-year and seldom-used guard Reggie Jackson was the surprise spark. He checked in with 1:46 left in the third quarter, replacing Westbrook, and immediately helped generate a Hornets turnover at one end before burying a 3-pointer at the other.

“Reggie came in and did a great job bringing our spirit into the game,” said Martin, who scored 17 off the bench. “Guys just kind of followed his speed and we just went from there.”

The Thunder trailed 19-17 after the first quarter, setting a new season low for points in the opening period. Both teams shot below 35 percent in the quarter, but it had the look and feel of sloppiness as opposed to a defensive battle. Oklahoma City couldn't create quality offense and instead chucked wild shots at the rim without moving the ball around like it has become so adept at doing.

In the first two meetings with the Hornets, the Thunder registered 31 assists and 21 assists, respectively. That led to the offense humming in those blowouts, as the Thunder shot 54.1 percent and 50.6 percent while winning by 15 and 21.

By halftime Wednesday, the Thunder had just five assists and not coincidentally trailed 44-36 at the break. It was the fewest points OKC has scored in a half this season. More troubling was the Thunder's 30.6 percent shooting.

“We're human,” explained Maynor. “Like coach came in here and said, we play 82 games and we can't play all of them good.”