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.


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