« Game On: Hornets @ Thunder
The Thunder beat the Hornets
This was never going to be an easy game for the Hornets, down two starters and playing one of the NBA’s hottest teams on their home floor. They were able to stick with OKC until about midway through the second quarter, thanks mostly to some heavy lifting by David West, but then the Thunder ramped up the defensive pressure and the Hornets just couldn’t keep up with their scoring.
98-83 was the final score (box), and the Hornets never really challenged in the second half. The didn’t so much get outworked tonight, as they just got beat down by a superior opponent.
Really, OKC’s defense was solid all game. David West was simply unstoppable in that first quarter. Once he cooled off, the Hornets had little else to rely on. The Thunder showed some great interior defense, usually having one if not two players in position to help when guys like Collison or Thornton drove in from the wing. The result was an often stagnant Hornets offense, and very few easy baskets for them in the halfcourt. I wished they would have pushed the ball more, as that seemed to be about the only way they were getting to the rim. Unfortunately, with Collison having an inevitable off night and his teammates still winded from that 48-minute fastbreak against the Warriors on Monday, running wasn’t much of an option for the Hornets.
West abused Jeff Green repeatedly in the first quarter, getting rolling on isolations from the elbow and going on to hit step back jumpers and shake off double teams for sneaky short shots. Then the Thunder got very physical with West and that limited him somewhat. Both Green and Serge Ibaka took turns fronting him in the post and clambering all over him for rebounds. West still managed to get some nice scores despite the roughness, and I was pleased to see his effort remain high all game. In fact, I swear I saw him lunge after a 50/50 ball late in the third quarter when the Thunder were up 15.
Other notes and observations
- Julian Wright started in place of the injured Peja and didn’t suck in 37 minutes of action. He finished a couple of breaks and thankfully didn’t handle the ball much in the halfcourt. Defensively, he was matched up with Durant quite a lot, and did get beaten off the dribble several times. But hey, that’s Kevin Durant. He good.
- If only Emeka Okafor had one-tenth the intensity of Marcus Thornton. I love Emeka for his preparation and professionalism, but this was another one of those games where he faded into the background and let the other team exert their will on the interior. His two airballed free throws in Q2 also seemed to be the start of the slippery slope for the Hornets, as the crowd got fired up and the Thunder reeled off four straight scores in the lane.
- James Posey missed all four of his field goals (three from deep), grabbed three rebounds, had one steal and delivered four hard fouls in 13 minutes. Not cool.
- Aaron Gray: 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 17 minutes. He continues to surprise me with his ability to find cutters underneath when he catches the ball out high.
- Collison played 38 minutes tonight. That’s the first time he’s logged less than 40 since January 3, a stretch of 15 games.
- The Hornets were terrible at stopping OKC’s dribble penetration tonight. Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden got in there multiple times and caused havoc. When the Hornets bigs managed to rotate and alter their shots, there were Thunder bigs left free to clean up the mess.
- CST reported that Hornets assistant coach Robert Pack has left the team to be with his father, who had a suspected heart attack a few days ago. Let’s all hope for the best.
Hornets in action again on Friday, back in New Orleans to take on the Nuggets before they start a six-game road trip in Phoenix on Sunday. Yikes.
One more thing
I was disappointed reading through the Game On discussion to see folks making derogatory, small-minded comments aimed at Oklahoma City and its fans. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion, but such comments ARE NOT WELCOME ON THIS SITE. They are an embarrassment, and only serve to hurt the good reputation we’ve worked hard to build over the years.
This time at least, we haven’t deleted the offending comments. I should hope that they say more about the people who wrote them than the people they were aimed at.