Thunder come out strong, but lose 11th straight as Paul earns triple-double

NEW ORLEANS -- No matter that they couldn't contain Chris Paul and David West, the Oklahoma City Thunder showed some signs of improvement under interim coach Scott Brooks following P.J. Carlesimo's firing.

West scored a season-high 33 points, and Paul had 29 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds in New Orleans' 109-97 victory Saturday night. The Hornets beat the Thunder for the second straight night to push Oklahoma City's losing streak to 11.

"We shared the ball a lot better tonight and we played with a lot more energy," Brooks said. "Our guys are tired right now, and it's a good tired. They played with the kind of energy our fans can be proud of. This was a tough day, with the team in some tough circumstances, and they came to play and leave it on the court."

The Hornets beat the Thunder 105-80 in Oklahoma City on Friday night in what turned out to be Carlesimo's final game, but the Thunder hung around much longer in the rematch. The Thunder led by seven in the second quarter and trailed by only five, 92-87, when Russell Westbrook hit two free throws with 5:45 left.

Paul and West each had four points as the Hornets finished of the Thunder with an 8-2 run to make it 100-89. West capped off the spurt with a layup after Paul's steal.

"Their two best players both had monster games against us, and they're one of the best teams in the NBA," Brooks said. "It's going to be tough for anyone to win when that happens."

Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting, keeping the Thunder close with 24 points through three quarters. Jeff Green added 17 points, and Chris Wilcox scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder never came closer than five points.

Green missed an open 3 that would have cut it to 4 at the midpoint of the fourth quarter. Guard Russell Westbrook shot an air ball during the Hornets' decisive run.

"It was better than last night, but we still have a long ways to go," Oklahoma City center Nick Collison said. "At least our energy was better."

Lack of effort on the court was cited as a factor in Carlesimo's firing, with Oklahoma City giving up at least 100 points in five consecutive games and scoring fewer than 90 in four straight. Playing for a new coach, the Thunder showed plenty of motivation, particularly early.

Durant drove the baseline for an emphatic dunk, the Thunder's third in the first 4:10, and the Thunder had two more jams while taking a 34-30 lead early in the second quarter.

"They did a good job running their offense," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "They didn't freelance as much as they had been."

The Oklahoma City players found out Carlesimo had been fired when they were on the team plane after the first game. Brooks went with a smaller lineup for the second game, inserting Damien Wilkins at small forward and benching 7-foot center Johan Petro of France. Petro did not play at all, while Wilkins scored 11 points.

"We played the right way," Oklahoma City guard Earl Watson said. "We've had games where we were close but didn't play the right way most of the game. This time, you could see a different flow."

Oklahoma City's advantage did not last long. Trailing 40-34, New Orleans went on a 13-0 run to take the lead for good, forcing Brooks to call his first timeout with 2:35 left in the first half.

The problem for Oklahoma City, which shot 52.8 percent after entering at barely better than 40 percent, was defense. The Thunder hit 20-of-25 attempts in the first half, but could not stop West and Paul, who combined for 32 of the Hornets' 53 points.

West had 13 points in the first quarter, getting easy baskets in the lane while connecting on seven-of-9 shots in the opening half. Paul hit all but one of his seven attempts, entering the break with 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

"It was his best game of the year," Scott said.

The Hornets stretched a 53-48 halftime advantage to 82-72 entering the fourth quarter. They hit 54.1 percent of their shots for the game.

Peja Stojakovic, with 12 points, and Rasual Butler, with 10, were the only Hornets besides West and Paul in double figures.

Game notes
The Thunder, an NBA-worst 1-13, will face Phoenix on Tuesday in Brooks' first home game as head coach. . . Paul had a steal for the 96th consecutive game, nine short of the NBA record of 105 set by Alvin Robertson. ... Hornets backup point guard Devin Brown hobbled off the court with a sprained ankle in the second quarter and did not return. ... New Orleans has won the last six meetings between the teams.