FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Jeff Green scored 13 of his 25 points in the third quarter and Oklahoma City beat the Charlotte Bobcats 97-93 on Wednesday night in the Thunder's preseason opener.
James Harden had 16 points, Serge Ibaka had 12 points and 11 rebounds and NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant added 12 for the Thunder. They never trailed in the fourth quarter and held the Bobcats without a field goal during the final seven minutes.
The Bobcats closed within one when Derrick Brown's 3-pointer made it 89-88 with 7:07 remaining. But they managed just five points — on four free throws by Brown and one by Matt Rogers — the rest of the way. A night earlier, Charlotte managed just 25 points in the second half of an 87-72 loss at Cleveland.
At least this time, things clicked in the third quarter before the offense vanished in the fourth. The Bobcats used a 20-3 run shortly after halftime to erase a 12-point deficit.
The Bobcats held Oklahoma City to one field goal in a 6½-minute span and took advantage of some assertive play at the other end of the court from point guard D.J. Augustin, who lofted a pretty fast-break alley-oop to Wallace two possessions before his 3-pointer made it 71-68 — the Bobcats' first lead since midway through the first quarter.
Brown finished with 12 points and Augustin scored 10 for Charlotte, which is adjusting to life without Raymond Felton — who left via free agency this offseason — and once again played without Augustin's backup.
Shaun Livingston missed his second straight game with soreness in his left knee. Coach Larry Brown said he developed some fluid that wasn't discovered in previous examinations, and is being cautious with him.
Center Nazr Mohammed, who had been bothered by neck spasms, finished with three points and three rebounds in 13½ minutes.
The Thunder return the heart of a rotation that carried them to the Western Conference playoffs, but they opened the preseason without three guards: rookie Jerome Dyson (lower back strain), Thabo Sefolosha (illness) and Daequan Cook (concussion). That's in addition to forward Nick Collison, who has a bone bruise in his left knee, and center Nenad Krstic, who had surgery last month to repair a broken finger. Ibaka started at center in their place.
The exhibition marked a homecoming of sorts for Thunder guard Eric Maynor, who played his senior year of high school in Fayetteville after growing up across the state in Raeford.
Maynor finished with 10 points, and his jumper early in the second quarter gave Oklahoma City its first double-figure lead at 37-27.
"It's just good to come home and play in front of family and friends, especially at this level," Maynor said.