for this game

Thunder end Bobcats' playoff dream

Apr 11, 2009 - 4:11 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Facing a daunting four-game road trip to finish the season, the string holding up the Charlotte Bobcats' postseason hopes seemed bound to snap eventually.

Kevin Durant and the Thunder took care of that in the final home game of their inaugural season in Oklahoma City.

Durant had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead three players with double-doubles, and the Thunder knocked the Bobcats out of playoff contention with an 84-81 victory Friday night.

The Bobcats, who already were assured of their best record in franchise history, would have needed four straight road wins to finish the season -- and coach Larry Brown said his team didn't come out with the kind of energy needed in such a "life-and-death" game.

"It's new for us," Brown said. "I don't think they had that in their mind. In their mind, I'm sure they thought they were out there trying. But you can't go on the road and not play with unbelievable effort right from the start."

The Bobcats charged back from a 14-point, second-half deficit and took the lead before succumbing down the stretch.

Nenad Krstic added 19 points, Jeff Green had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook had 10 points and 11 assists for Oklahoma City.

D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats with 20 points, including a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left that got Charlotte within 83-81. Green then swatted away a runner by Raymond Felton and Krstic corralled the rebound on the floor with 2.2 seconds left.

After Durant went 1-for-2 from the foul line, Vladimir Radmanovic had one last shot at the tie, but his whirling 3-pointer missed off the front rim.

"We had chances at the end. We missed D.J. wide open, took a bad shot, missed a layup, got a shot blocked at the end," Brown said. "I thought we did a lot of good things, but just put ourselves in too big a hole and you've got to give them credit.

"The crowd was great, they played with a lot of energy and I thought they did a tremendous job of blocking shots and clogging up the inside and making us shoot outside jumpers, and that's not our game."

The Thunder played in front of their eighth straight home sellout and snapped a six-game losing streak at the Ford Center. Oklahoma City had 10 blocked shots, one off of its most of the season, and got four in the fourth quarter.

"We did a great job of closing and getting stops at the end of the game," Westbrook said. "Jeff had a great block."

Boris Diaw added 19 points, Felton scored 11 and Gerald Wallace had 10 points and 14 rebounds for Charlotte.

Even being in the playoff hunt in the final week of the season was an accomplishment for the Bobcats, who started the season 7-18. Diaw and Raja Bell came over in a trade with Phoenix late in that stretch, and Charlotte has gone 28-26 since that awful start.

"We made a lot of changes to the team, and guys have started to jell well," Augustin said. "We keep fighting. We're going to keep fighting to the end, no matter what."

Diaw and Augustin combined to score 17 during a 19-6 run that cut the deficit to 62-61 on Augustin's 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the third period.

Felton's jumper from the left side capped a stretch of six straight Bobcats points and put Charlotte ahead 67-66 with 10:12 left, its first lead since it was 2-0. That was the first of six lead changes over the next 5 minutes.

Rookie D.J. White scored inside to put Oklahoma City up 72-71 with 5 minutes left, and Durant added a 3-pointer from the right wing before Shaun Livingston's jumper on the left baseline. The Thunder protected that lead the rest of the way.

"Down the line, everybody played well and chipped in," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "They all played extremely hard. I told the guys after the game they gave it their all."

Charlotte, 12-26 on the road this season, would have needed a remarkable finish to earn its first playoff appearance.

In part because of an equestrian event at Charlotte's home arena that team owner Bob Johnson's daughter will compete in, the Bobcats are the first team to finish the regular season with four straight road games since the Toronto Raptors 12 years ago. Charlotte also needed Chicago or Detroit to lose all of their games the rest of the way.

The final three games of that stretch won't matter nearly as much now, after the Bobcats shot just 33 percent and couldn't capitalize on 24 Thunder turnovers, including a season-high nine by rookie Westbrook.

"It's a process of learning what those games mean, and you don't really know until you miss it," Diaw said. "It's a tough way to learn."

The Thunder emerged with a 48-37 lead at halftime despite committing 15 turnovers -- seven by Westbrook -- by shooting 55 percent in a first half filled with spurts. Oklahoma City led 56-42 after Kyle Weaver's driving, left-handed layup early in the second half before Charlotte started its comeback.

Oklahoma City had an early burst of nine straight points and was up by eight before Charlotte responded with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 17. Oklahoma City then scored the final 10 points of the first quarter on its way to building a 39-25 lead.

"We got better and better during the season," Diaw said. "We definitely had a rough start, but I think it's good for the future. We've got a pretty young team and we're working hard and getting better."