OKLAHOMA CITY • The Thunder were in desperate need of a slump buster. After Oklahoma City lost the previous two games, the noise started to grow louder around the franchise that it was going in the wrong direction.
Enter the New Orleans Pelicans. Losers of their previous four contests and playing without their best player, the Pelicans were supposed to be the perfect remedy for what ailed the Thunder.
But it still took a special night from guard Russell Westbrook in order for Oklahoma to hold on to a 110-103 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday.
He scored 43 points on 14-of-25 shooting from the field to go along with eight assists and nine rebounds. It was his second consecutive 40-plus-point outburst in the absence of former National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, who was out for a fourth straight game.
"I just have to be a better leader," Westbrook said. "My job is to make guys feel confident about their game. Find a way to give them the ball and also help us win games."
Durant, recovering from a strained left hamstring, took part in full-court shooting drills on Wednesday morning.
"He is doing more than he was a week ago," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
But the Pelicans' injury woes were even worse. With star forward Anthony Davis out with a left shoulder injury, the Pelicans had only nine players in uniform.
Forward Ryan Anderson paced the Pelicans (1-11) with 30 points on 13-of-25 shooting. Guards Eric Gordon and Ish Smith each scored 18 points for New Orleans.
"I felt that we got everything that we possibly could," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played hard. I thought we competed like crazy. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity, and a great player closed out the game for them. Westbrook made a lot of great plays, but he does that against a lot of teams."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE