Thunder Beat the Hornets

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Published: December 10, 2010

The Thunder beat the Hornets in what can only be described as a depressing game for the Bees. They had their chances, and gave/let them them away. The Hornets took it inside early and often, and for a while it appeared that David West would prove to be too much to handle for the visitors. In a game that pitted the former resident of Oklahoma City with the current one, fans saw some good quality basketball, mixed together with turnovers, inconsistent reffing, and awful clutch free throw shooting by the Hornets.

Within the first three minutes of the third quarter, Emeka took both his third and fourth fouls. Both were a bit ridiculous considering they were called because of how players reacted to being fouled, not the actual foul.

Enter the inadequacy of DJ Mbenga as a backup center. Without Okafor inside, the Hornets were outscored 11-0 in the next four minutes thanks to some questionable refereeing. It was just clear that the ref making calls on a few plays just wasn’t in proper position to get a good look at what was happening. The run ended on a David West steal which he threw ahead to a streaking Paul. After a timeout Monty put Jason Smith in for Mbenga and the Thunder run was officially finished.

Regardless, this whole Mbenga seeing consistent minutes thing isn’t going to work. Sorry, but he’s just not adequate.

Seemingly determined to get a season high game out of David West, Coach Monty Williams played him for 41 minutes and for the first three quarter wound up getting one of the best performances of West’s season. Despite four turnovers he entered the fourth quarter with a line of 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. In the fourth he didn’t score and had only a single rebound. The team needed more from him at that point, and again he was shut down by the Thunder when it mattered most.

Russel Westbrook looks sicker and sicker every time I see him. Sick in the good way, of course. He gets to the rim with ease, is physical enough to back down Paul, and does almost everything you can ask for on defense. His passing isn’t snazzy by any means, but it’s crisp, clean, and highly effective. I’d already Westbrook ahead of Rondo on my list of best point guards in the game.

That said, Paul got into his head today and forced a lot of unnecessary and uncharacteristic turnovers, including five in the first half. He didn’t stop playing, though, and continued to attack. He would finish with 29 points, 10 assists, and 7 turnovers. Despite the errant passing and subpar ball handling, he won this battle with CP3.

Speaking of Paul, he was nonexistent in the second half. There were points in the fourth quarter that I didn’t even realize he was on the floor. I know Michael doesn’t want him to, but if they were going to win this game, he needed to take over. It’s very odd to watch a close Hornets game at the Hive and see Paul do anything except take over. He and West disappearing played a big part in why the team wasn’t able to pull out a win.

Well, that and the team didn’t make their free throws. With the Hornets down 88-84, they started a stretch in which they missed six consecutive free throws. The usual culprits (Okafor and Ariza) missed five, and Belinelli added one more to the total before sinking his second. In the end those shots would prove to be the difference. It’s unacceptable to be doing that late in NBA games, and I imagine Monty will have them all working overtime next practice.

Other Player Notes

  • Jarret Jack played well, scoring 13 points on 7 shots. He added 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and three steals.
  • Can Ariza just stop shooting the ball on anything except wide open gimme’s? He’s just not an efficient scorer. Why is he taking only one less shot per game than the super efficient Chris Paul?
  • Belinelli was off early, but came on late and nearly led the comeback charge. He had 9 points in the final quarter, and 6 in the final three minutes.

Game Notes

  • Ex-owner Gary Chouest was back in his usual court side seats. I presume he’s paying for them now. Really though,  it’s good to see him still taking an interest in the team. it would be better if he was donating lots of money to the Save Our Hornets Foundation, but I guess for now we will have to settle for him watching games up close and staying involved.
  • The Hornets Sixth man (the crowd) was pretty solid tonight. They wound up with 14,428 (boo), but those in attendance were rowdy and loud. They were chanting, reacting, and stayed on their feet for the final minute thirty of the game.
  • Unfortunately, the Thunder had a sixth, seventh, and eight man who seemed determined to make sure things didn’t go the Hornets way. I’m starting to think that rookie head coaches get the same raw deal that rookie players do from the refs. Actually, I take that back. I’m positive that they do. The calls tonight just weren’t consistent.
  • The Hornets starters combined for 16 turnovers, the most they have combined for all year.
  • The Hornets had FOUR defensive three second violations called on them. That’s the most of the year.

Scott Brooks Quotes

  • On Paul- I see him do this all the time. Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in basketball. He’s a terrific player and he makes incredibly good plays throughout the game and is a two way player and aggressive against anyone he plays int eh game. He’s a very competitive player and wants to compete every time to the best of his ability.
  • On Durant- He brings it every day in practice, he brings it every day in games and that’s what good player do . You don’t get better because everyone tells you you’re good. you get better through work and he works extremely hard every day.

Don’t forget to come to our Watch Party on Monday at The Extreme Sports Bar and Grille at 535 Thcoupitoulas!