OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Basketball didn't matter much to Kevin Durant on Thursday night.
Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams' wife, Ingrid, was involved in a car crash Tuesday night in Oklahoma City and died Wednesday. Monty Williams coached the Pelicans last season before coming to Oklahoma City to help new coach Billy Donovan, so as his two most recent teams met, both played with heavy hearts. A moment of silence was observed before the Thunder's 121-95 victory.
Durant was distraught earlier in the day while discussing the situation after the team's shootaround, and he said it remained fresh in his mind after the game.
"We love the game so much, but that's not really what's important," Durant said. "It's definitely something that we love to do, but relationships, family — those things — that's what's most important in life, not the latest trends or the fashion world or all that stuff. It's cool and all that stuff, but the stuff that lasts forever is relationships, family and love."
Donovan wasn't sure how his team would deal with all that happened. Durant scored 23 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and Serge Ibaka added 18 points.
"I really appreciated all of our guys, the way they all have handled a really difficult situation these past 24 hours and being able to go out and play," Donovan said.
Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday each scored 23 points for the Pelicans. Davis, who was emotional on Twitter after learning of the death, still was disappointed in the way the Pelicans played.
"We've got to go out there and still compete," he said. "Go out there and play. We had a job to do tonight."
Oklahoma City has won 14 of 16 heading into the All-Star break to join Golden State and San Antonio as the only teams with at least 40 wins. The Thunder don't feel much needs to change to compete for the title.
"No switch-up, just enhance and get better at what we do."
The Thunder led 62-53 at halftime behind 18 points from Westbrook and 17 from Durant.
Westbrook got his 10th assist on Ibaka's 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 79-65 lead. He had his ninth rebound with just under 3 minutes to go in the third quarter before heading to the bench for his usual rest and the Thunder ahead 86-68. Oklahoma City led 95-74 at the end of the third quarter.
Oklahoma City's backups expanded the lead early in the fourth quarter, and Westbrook didn't return.
"I don't know what we can take out of it other than we competed like crazy in the first half," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. "Tried like crazy in the second half, but when they got separation, it was really difficult."
The Thunder found an escape from pain through playing.
"Basketball, the effect it has, it allows you to forget about things a little bit, and it also brings you together as a group," Durant said. "Thankful for that."
Gentry, on Westbrook: "He's just a really talented guy, probably the best athlete in professional sports, and when I say that, I mean pro sports. Not just basketball."
ON THE RISE
Gentry said the Thunder have the look of a title contender.
"This team's playing extremely well," he said. "I know they had a tough loss against Golden State (last Saturday), but I think they're playing really good basketball, and I think, obviously, they're going to be a huge factor."
Durant is averaging 30.0 points on 49 percent shooting during the Thunder's 14-2 surge heading into the All-Star break.
Pelicans: Shot 53.5 percent from the field in the first half, but just 43.2 percent for the game. ... Were outrebounded 50-31 ... Committed just nine turnovers. ... Norris Cole scored 15 points.
Thunder: Shot 52.3 percent from the field. ... Thunder G Andre Roberson remained out with a right knee sprain. ... Anthony Morrow scored 10 points. ... Enes Kanter finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Pelicans play at 76ers on Feb. 19.
Thunder host Pacers on Feb. 19.
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Posted on Fri, February 12, 2016
by CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer