Hornets fall to Thunder 92-88 in hard-fought defensive battle

Published: December 12, 2012

In a game that was far closer than most likely imagined, New Orleans simply could not keep up with the star power of Oklahoma City down the stretch.

As brutal as last night’s game was to sit through was as fun as tonight’s game was to watch. After getting blown out in their first two meetings at home against the Thunder, the Hornets held them to a season low point total in the first half and then gave OKC everything they could handle in the next two quarters before eventually coming up short. Let’s first look at the keys to the game from this afternoon and see how the Hornets fared.

  1. Keep out-performing the Thunder in every facet of the game that they did in their first two games. The Hornets matched the Thunder in turnovers (10) and defensive rebound rate, and bested them in offensive rebound rate. The goal here was to prohibit the Thunder from gaining an advantage from either of these areas, and the Hornets succeeded in keeping them from doing so.
  2. Rotate well on defense and contest 3-pointers. The Hornets’ activity on defense was immensely better than either of their first two games against the Thunder. After allowing OKC to shoot 46.7% from beyond the arc over those two games on an average of 22.5 attempts, they started just 2-11 from 3-point range tonight, eventually finishing 5-15. Great improvement from the Hornets here.
  3. Create fast break opportunities. Due to the Hornets’ inability to force a ton of turnovers against one of the most turnover-prone teams in the NBA, they were only able to total 7 fast break points. Even more crushing was the fact that the Thunder were able to score twice as many fast break points (14) despite forcing the same number of turnovers. Had they been able to at least match OKC in this phase of the game, the Hornets would have likely come out on top.

Other notes:

  • New Orleans closed the gap in effective field goal percentage considerably tonight. The Thunder finished with an eFG% of 47.2% tonight, compared to 45.2% for the Hornets. While that total is about 3% lower than the Hornets’ season average (48.4%), they held the Thunder about 7% under their season average (54.1%). If a team can stay close in this stat category against Oklahoma City, it will have a chance to win, just like New Orleans did tonight.
  • The Thunder won this game at the free throw line. Over the teams’ first two match-ups, the Hornets earned 46 free throw attempts, nine more than the Thunder’s 37. OKC made up that gap and then some tonight, doubling New Orleans’ 16 attempts with 32 of their own. The net result was a 12-point advantage from the charity stripe for the Thunder, which clearly was a major factor in their 4 point margin of victory. Durant attempted two less free throws by himself than the Hornets’ entire team.
  • Anderson was slowed down again in the second half. After going 5-9 in the first half, the Thunder made the necessary adjustments to make sure he was as heavily contested as possible, resulting in just one made shot in the second half. With Anderson as the team’s only true consistent scoring weapon, opponents are continuing to look for better ways to make him fight for open looks. Other players (like Anthony Davis) are going to have to step up to take some of the scoring burden off of him.
  • Brian Roberts can flat out shoot. Other areas of his game need a good bit of work, but the guy arguably has the second best stroke on the team behind Anderson; yes, I’m including the guy who’s currently rehabbing in Los Angeles as well. As long as he keeps getting these clear looks, he needs to keep taking them.
  • No Hornets player committed more than two turnovers. The Thunder live for fast break opportunities, and while 14 fast break points on 10 turnovers is more than you’d like, the fact that no one was consistently coughing the ball up made a huge difference. A few more turnovers and New Orleans may not have even had a chance to win.
  • The Hornets’ bench came to play tonight. Outscoring a second unit led by Kevin Martin is no easy task, and yet the New Orleans bench piled up 39 points on 33 shots compared to 28 points on 21 shots for the Thunder. Both benches scored efficiently, but any time the Hornets’ bench can compete with a team of Oklahoma City’s quality, it’s always a plus.


  1. Gary

    December 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Vasquez needs to go

  2. Gary

    December 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Or we could start rivers or Roberts at point

  3. MZURK

    December 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    A solid game from the Hornets tonight, for a change.

    However, the reality is that the losses just continue to pile up.

    We’ll see if they can build on this solid effort to finally get a win soon or whether we’re in the middle of another 7 to 8 game losing streak.

    • Jason Calmes

      December 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm

      Note: We won the free throw percentage battle, but not the total number of points from free throws.

      Also, see the improved three point defense?

      • GerryV

        December 13, 2012 at 10:31 am

        Jason: 3pt defense melted late 4th qrt..late rotations and closeouts during critcal times failed…” its a matter of doing it right when it matters most”

      • Jason Calmes

        December 13, 2012 at 11:24 am

        I agree with that.

        In a long stretch of games, it melted in the first. We’re moving up from horrible.

  4. jcg64

    December 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    i believe this is the first time rivers has scored double digits in back to back games

  5. maximumballer

    December 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I know we got rid of Jarret Jack, but he would have been great leading this young team as they transitioned to the next level. I have no idea why they kept Vasquez instead of JJ. The only pleasant thing through this whole losing streak is seeing Rivers become consistent. Anthony Davis still seems bothered by his injury, he isnt smooth like he was at the beginning of they year. Davis is still the key to this team, once he starts taking and making the bulk of the shots, this team will rise

  6. champsworld504

    December 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Anyone noticed we had 3 rookies on the floor in crunch-time? Good to see Rivers hit clutch shots too. Davis looked tred towards the end, expected since it was his 2nd game back. Eric Gordon to return in 2 weeks!

  7. mojart

    December 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    our team put up a great effort out there….although the result is still a L…..i miss winning….for me rivers should start at PG “NOW”…greivis game is to slow…hate to say it but also boring…

  8. Lucas Ottoni

    December 13, 2012 at 10:07 am

    If Eric Gordon had played yesterday, we would win. And I’m sure I will continue repeating this phrase for a long, long time… It’s a constant nightmare!

    And before I forget… No Pelicans! HORNETS FOREVER!

  9. GerryV

    December 13, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Hornets gave a better performance vs OKC when compared to previous games…Hoawever they failed to ‘execute under pressure’..Roberts made a horrible play when he attempted to split a trap late 4th qrt which resulted in a turnover and layup for OKC….

    Failure to closeeoeut on Martin late 4th which resulted in a 3…..Roberts and Rivers running to the same corner on a fast break situation which wrecked the spacing and a poor possession…….plus the Horents missed Davis on a roll to the rim ( wide open) Rivers and Roberts missed some good looks to cutters and postups…….

    These mistakes and mental lapses happened in the 2nd half of the 4th qrt.

    Guard play when needed failed…..

    • Mickey Chatman

      December 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

      But those same two guards kept us in the game. Vasquez three in the fourth was from a swing from rivers. Roberts found Davis on a roll. Rivers found Anderson and both guards hit clutch threes

      • GerryV

        December 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

        kept you i the game and tossed you out of the game…they couldn’t “close the deal” what matters in these close game is hor you perform under pressure when it matters most…..do make plays when it matters most? do you take care of the ball when it matters most? find open players when it matters most?…a NO for all three questions….ITS HOW YOU CLOSE GAMES….

  10. Mickey Chatman

    December 13, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I’ve been saying this all year. Start rivers at the point. He’s taller than Roberts and quicker than Vasquez. He looks to pass first and he can shoot quick threes.

    I like Vasquez but last night during crunch time he became selfish and ignorant at the fact that he can’t take any thunder guard off the dribble. We lost cause the last two possessions he was trying isolation plays.

  11. Lance

    December 13, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Good game tonight pelicans. My thunder team just can’t seem to lose right now, you guys will be better with a healthy team and a new point guard whenever that time comes. Vasquez is a solid back up but he can’t compete will Westbrook. I remember a few years ago in the WCF and he is more like a Maynor, a serviceable back up.

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