NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Russell Westbrook intercepted Ryan Anderson's inbounds pass, immediately pulled up for a 3-pointer that he nailed, blew on the tips of his pistol-shaped hands, then emphatically jammed both hands into the imaginary holsters on his hips.
Westbrook's gun-slinging mentality is in full swing, serving as a perfect complement to Kevin Durant's habitually prolific performances and making the Oklahoma City Thunder a blowout machine.
Durant scored 20 points, Westbrook added 18 points, 10 assists and three steals, and the Thunder won their fifth straight game, 100-79 over the struggling New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
``Russell was really good on the ball,' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ``I thought he had one of his better games; he's had a bunch of them lately on both ends of the floor. And Russell has the ability to do that. There's not a lot of guys in this league that can impact a game defensively and offensively like he has.'
The Thunder stars did all of their work in first three quarters, resting for the final period after helping their club build a 27-point lead. After they left, the lead got as large as 29 as Oklahoma City cruised to a fourth-straight, double-digit victory - a span in which they've throttled opponents by an average margin of 25 points.
``As you can see right now, we're rolling,' said Kevin Martin, who added 19 points in a reserve role. ``We're just playing together, sharing the ball, playing defense, trusting each other on both ends of the court. Everybody's playing at a high level right now.'
Nick Collison added 12 points for Oklahoma City, which has won nine of 10.
Anderson had 21 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, but was only 3 of 11 on 3-point attempts, normally his strength. Robin Lopez added 12 points and Roger Mason Jr. 11 for the Hornets, who have lost nine of 10.
``I thought we competed. We just didn't play smart - silly turnovers, defensive lapses,' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ``A lot of this falls on my shoulders. You have to get guys ready to play. You have to help them believe.'
Oklahoma City outshot the Hornets 50.6 percent (40 of 79) to 37 percent (30 of 81) and outscored New Orleans inside 52-34. The Thunder pushed the pace at every chance until the game was out of reach, scoring 18 fast-break points to the Hornets' 4.
``I put a big emphasis on myself to come out every night and defend,' Westbrook said. ``We did a good job of making them miss and getting out on the break to get easy points.'
Playing without top overall pick Anthony Davis (left ankle) for a seventh straight game, the Hornets tried in vain to keep pace by shooting frequently from long range, which backfired. New Orleans finished 6 of 24 from 3-point range.
``You can't always blame the players,' Williams continued. ``Some of our guys are trying their best. I have to put them in position to succeed.'
Oklahoma City took control early in the second quarter with an 11-0 run that included Durant's 3 and his two-handed dunk on a drive down the left side of the lane. The surge made it 41-23, and the Hornets never got closer than 10 points again.
Anderson, among the NBA leaders in made 3s coming in, struggled to find his range, missing his first six from deep before finally hitting his seventh to pull New Orleans to 54-44 at halftime.
Durant then opened the second half with his second 3 and Westbrook continued to dominate, tossing up an alley-oop lob to Durant in between his own jumper and mid-range fade.
``Russell was Russell. He was able to get me open shots and I just tried to do my part,' Durant said. ``He sets the tone for us by pressuring the point and disrupted them early on.'
Westbrook capped his night in the final moments of the third quarter by converting a fast-break layup and draining a 27-footer at the horn to give Oklahoma City a whopping 84-57 lead heading into the final period.
That allowed Brooks to empty his bench and give his stars a well-deserved rest in what served as a dominant encore to a 12-point victory over Utah a night earlier.
For Westbrook, it was a sign of increased maturity for the Thunder, who have been able to avoid falling into the trap of playing down to the level of struggling opponents.
``As a team we're doing a better job of not focusing on who we're playing, but focusing on ourselves and trying to find a way where we can get better,' Westbrook said.
Notes: The Hornets lost the teams' first meeting this season 110-95 in New Orleans on Nov. 16. The teams will meet twice more in Oklahoma City on Dec. 12 and Feb. 27. ... The crowd included actors Steve Zahn and Wendell Pierce, stars of the New Orleans-based HBO series ``Treme.' ... Oklahoma City improved to 5-0 in the second of back-to-back games this season. ... Hornets reserve PG Brian Roberts played despite feeling ill earlier in the day, finishing with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting to go with an assist and a rebound.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved