The Hornets beat the Thunder
Before I get into recapping this game, a few comments on how the Hornets have been handling the aftermath of the Tyson Chandler trade.
A “Season Ticket Holder Advisory” landed in my inbox a little after 2pm. The words of Jeff Bower as per that e-mail:
We were able to get great depth, leadership and experience by making this trade. We felt we needed to increase our overall play of the frontline and Chris Wilcox is a young, athletic player that can score and fit well in our system. We will be able to take advantage of his athleticism and style of play. Joe provides us with much needed depth and someone who can be an integral part of our rotation.
Fast forward to the CST telecast of tonight’s game, and I hear Bob Licht and Gil McGregor gushing relentlessly about the players we acquired (“28 other teams wanted Joe Smith!!!”), how the trade improves the Hornets’ offense, rebounding and depth, and how Tyson’s departure should speed up the development of Hilton Armstrong. Then Byron gets interviewed by Jordy Hultberg and we hear Coach citing our shallow bench as the main reason for doing the deal with OKC.
No mention of by far the biggest reason the Hornets pulled the trigger on this trade, which was of course to cut salary. No mention of that by anybody. No mention of it at all.
We all know the truth behind this deal, so for everybody associated with the Hornets to emphasize the silver lining while ignoring the cloud is nothing more than a slap in the face to the fans. Worse still, refusing to acknowledge the real issues makes us wonder if you know what you’re doing here. It breeds mistrust.
You traded Tyson Chandler because you’re broke. That’s okay. I can accept that. What’s not okay and what’s not acceptable is lying to everyone about it. We the fans deserve better than that.
On to the recap, and methinks I’ll switch it up a little this time. Let’s run through each quarter real quick, then wrap it up with a few bullets…
The Hornets came out on fire, running out to a 24-9 lead and finishing the period with a 32-18 lead. Rasual Butler had a couple of nice dribble pull-ups and rejected a three. Peja was really getting into it defending Durant, even got himself a bloody nose early when he got too close. He stayed in the game though. West looked sharp, no hesitation on his moves. Chris Paul toyed with Westbrook, luring him into a few cheap fouls and shaking up the rook with the run fast/brake hard routine. Peja knocked down a pair of triples off some nice CP skip passes. Paul picked up his second foul with four minutes left but told Byron to leave him in the game for a while anyways. Byron obeyed. Our rebounding was real good until Armstrong came in for Marks. Some ugly shots from Hilton, too. OKC ran a lot of pick and rolls and shot a lot of quick threes. Quarter ended with a running triple by Posey off a long inbound by West.
Hilton got got blocked early, then missed a dunk two possessions later. Marks soon replaced him. For the most part our second unit played solid halfcourt D but the shoddy offense led to long rebounds and turnovers that OKC happily turned into fast breaks. Marks continued to set hard picks and rolling well to the basket. Rasual was rebounding, saving, assisting. Midway through the period and Devin Brown somehow blocked himself on a three-point attempt, got called for a double -dribble. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. Posey got his offense working before CP and D-West came back in, helped keep the lead at 10+. Our All-Stars then took over the scoring load. Late in the quarter Durant beat Peja back door and rammed home a nasty one on Marks. A little after that I realized he had 21 points already. Stealthy that kid be. A 9-0 run for the Thunder going into the half, and we led 53-47. Seven turnovers in that quarter alone for the Hornets.
Pretty even scoring through this quarter. West helped carry us with a variety of moves, still decisive. Paul carved up OKC inside, but our shooters had trouble knocking down the kick-outs. The Thunder attacked the basket early, led mostly by Westbrook. They got a bunch of second chances too but rarely finished them. Byron wasn’t happy and called a timeout five minutes in, our lead cut to four, put Bowen in for Marks. Mostly Rasual guarding Durant in the first half of the period, did a decent job slowing him. Mostly Posey and a little Peja doing that job later. Pick and pop game was working for CP and D-West. Peja exchanged triples with Jeff Green down the stretch. Hornets led 78-71 heading into the final frame.
Kevin Durant went off early. Two free throws, a layup, a triple, a 15-footer, another trey. All that in little more than the first two minutes. And all against James Posey, getting caught behind picks more than once. The CP came back in and Durant sat for almost three minutes. Posey missed a wide open three and launched another ill-advised one early in the shot clock. West and CP also forced shots. Midway through the quarter our guys got some sense and played with more control, but Green and Durant combined to get OKC the lead. It see-sawed the rest of the way. Rasual came up with a big three and West got us some buckets in old-fashioned ways. Posey still guarding Durant down the stretch, but KD had little trouble getting by him. Better help though. CP got us plenty of open looks from three but Peja was cold. A minute left and the pick and pop with West and Paul is money again. Hornets lead by three as OKC inbounds with 15 seconds left. Durant catches on the wing, turns and fires a three right away, over Posey. Bottom. Hornets don’t call a timeout, CP comes down, uses the West pick for some misdirection and turns Kyle Weaver inside out, scoring on pretty much the same shot Weaver had blocked last trip. Two ticks left, no timeouts for OKC, and a Westbrook prayer goes unanswered.
Hornets 100, Thunder 98 is the final.
Other observations and notes
- Chris Paul was doing defensive slides across the lane right before the start of the third quarter as he waited for play to resume. Looked like he was trying to keep that groin loose.
- Great game by West, even though he went a little cold late. 37 points, 13 boards, 13-of-20 shooting, 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.
- Looks like Posey fared the worst guarding Durant. Bad timing or bad defense? All I know is that Durant is an incredibly well-rounded offensive player, and expecting one guy to contain him might be expecting a little too much.
- Durant finished with 47 points on 16-of-27 shooting. I believe that’s a career high. Green chipped in with 24 points and the rest of the team 27 between them.
- OKC played just eight players.
- During an ad break in the third quarter, there was a commercial advertising the All-Star Game in Phoenix, being shown on TNT this February 15th. Can’t wait.
- I know Byron gets criticized a lot for not always taking a timeout to stop an opposing team’s run, but I’ve noticed that we almost always seem to end up with more timeouts than the other team down the stretch, which of course is never a bad thing. After West nailed that jumper to put us up 3 with a minute left, OKC burned a timeout. After that they had just one left, while we had three. Scott Brooks used his final timeout to get Durant that tying triple, then looked on helplessly after CP dropped the gamer with two seconds left.
- Some numbers: Thunder 46 points in the paint, we had 32. Thunder 13 fast break points, we had 3. Only 11 turnovers for the Hornets, despite coughing it up 7 times in the second quarter alone. OKC won the rebounding battle, 45-41, including a 13-6 edge on the offensive glass. Only 10 turnovers for the Thunder, despite leading the NBA with an average of about 17 per game. 6-of-23 shooting from deep for OKC, 49.4% field goals for the Hornets.
That’ll do. Hornets back in New Orleans tomorrow to host the Orlando Magic. Not gonna be easy.