Thunder hold off Hornets in Fourth

Published: February 20, 2012
New Orleans Hornets 93 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Hornets got down big in the first half, then roared back and made it interesting in the fourth.

Five Things We Saw

  1. The Hornets hustled 16 offensive rebounds, hit half their threes, and won the turnover battle. They even earned more free throws against a team that specializes in crushing opponents at the line. If their centers Jones and Kaman hadn’t gone 5-24 for the game, the Hornets should have had this one in the bag.
  2. I like that Monty rode the bench that brought him back from the big deficit at the end. It’s the age old question – do you reward the guys who brought you back with more time, or take them out, since they probably killed themselves to get you there. I like that he rode them to the end . . . though a little piece of me wanted him to take out Jones and insert Ayon so. damn. badly.
  3. I’m going to start saying this now. If any of you think Monty is a bad coach, you are batshit crazy. He has a team that is 7-24, playing it’s second and third string, playing damn hard EVERY night, never giving up, and almost always being within reach at the end. At no position on the court does he have an easy answer. Every player has glaring weaknesses and moderate strengths. He is doing a masterful job.
  4. I’ve mentioned this before – Ayon’s passing is superb – but he’s still not yet up to full NBA speed. Tonight, he had a bunch of slick passes that the extreme length and athleticism of the Thunder just made impossible to complete. As he gets more acclimated, he’ll adjust and we’ll see them slipping through again. Vasquez had the same problem tonight as well.
  5. It was a crazy block party out there for the Thunder. 13 blocks against the Hornets.Still, I’d like to thank Daequan Cook for helping the Hornets to stay in that game.
Trevor Ariza, SF 29 MIN | 2-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 7 PTS | -14

I think Ariza played well out there. He kept the lid of Durant while he played, and did what he needed to offensively. He wasn’t fantastic, but he was good.

Gustavo Ayon, PF 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -11

Ayon struggled hard tonight facing the ultra-athletic Serge Ibaka and the rest of the Thunder. This game exposed a few of his limitations, as his hustle works great – except for when the guys he’s hustling against are freaks of nature and can recover when he lures them into mistakes.

Chris Kaman, C 28 MIN | 4-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -14

Kaman had a vendetta tonight. He was going to bruise every inch of that rim with his chucking. And he did so. Why did the Hornets go down 20 in the first half? The easy answer is here.

Marco Belinelli, SG 23 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -1

Bellinelli was doing everything you want from your deep shooting specialist in the game. He wasn’t amazing, but he was flaring to the open spots on the wing and not forcing anything. If he keeps up what he’s been doing the past couple weeks and doesn’t go into another stretch of inconsistency, he’ll be worth looking at bringing back next year.

Greivis Vasquez, PG 29 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | -6

Vasquez had a beautiful stretch in the third when the Hornets were executing nice rub screens to get him going one on one vs Daequan Cook instead of Westbrook. I still can’t give him a great game because Westbrook abused him every which way, and his passing, which is his strength, was ineffective.

Jarrett Jack, PG 30 MIN | 6-15 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 18 PTS | -1

Jack led the surge in the fourth to get the Hornets back. He too was getting torched by Westbrook, but really, I can’t get mad.

Solomon Jones, C 22 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | +1

The good: Jones sets some CRUSHING screens. The bad: Everything else. Blown layups, stone hands, silly fouls. For a guy who looks so athletic, he’s a bit of a stiff.

Lance Thomas, F 20 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +1

Pure hustle, as usual. Mediocre results. For every nice hustle play he has, he gets crushed for two bad ones.

Al-Farouq Aminu, SF 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 14 PTS | +7

I enjoyed Aminu’s game tonight. He was shooting with confidence when spelling Ariza, and when working as a small power forward, he was crashing the glass and finishing around the rim. If he can show this touch around the basket consistently, he could become a stretch 4 and play meaningful minutes.

Xavier Henry, SG 16 MIN | 1-6 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -2

Henry was doing what he needed to tonight. Yeah, he missed a few shots, but he was attacking like crazy, getting free throws, and playing good denial defense. After a couple weeks of me watching him with ambivalence, I could see the promise. Of course, as soon as I wrote that note, he promptly left with an injury. Seriously.


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