Ugly. Nasty. Sloppy. You pick the word and it totally fits. But to me, it looks like another beautiful, lovely, gorgeous.
Oklahoma City turned it over 20 times and the Hornets had 20 as well. Players were dribbling it off their feet, throwing it away, mis-handling passes and just playing halfway stupid for most of the game. But really, the Thunder’s going to play however you want them to. And win most of the time.
These guys step up. From the first guy to the last, they just elevate when they’ve got to, no matter what’s happened previously in the game. It’s really an uncanny mentality.
Consider Russell Westbrook who was hawked by Chris Paul all night and had seven turnovers heading into the fourth quarter. Guess how many turns Russ had in the fourth? Zero.
Consider Kevin Durant who only had just a couple field goals in the fourth quarter. But what we saw from KD was him completely takeover a game without scoring. He grabbed rebounds, played stellar defense and dished out four of his six assists in the fourth. He dominated all attention from the Hornets and opened up a number of great looks for his teammates. And KD made every correct decision down the stretch. He may have just been 8-20 from the field (25 points) but this is honestly one of the best games KD’s had this year. He understands what it takes to win and played the the role his team needed. He created, distributed, defended and rebounded. Huge performance by KD.
Consider Jeff Green, who was relatively quiet most of the night. But he had the assignment of David West who had 24 points entering the fourth. Green did a fantastic job pushing West away from his comfort zones, never let him get solid position and contested everything. West only had one look in the entire fourth. And guess how many points West had in the fourth? Zero.
Down the line you go, players made big plays. Thabo Sefolosha’s defense was tremendous late. Serge Ibaka has a terrific game at center, scoring 18 points, grabbing nine boards and blocking three shots. James Harden scored eight points and had three steals off the bench. Everyone had a hand in things. Really, a very nice win for the Thunder.
- For the second time, Westbrook got the best of Chris Paul down the stretch. CP3 had just two assists in the final three quarters and didn’t score the ball well either. Paul had 18, but most of those came in the first half. Westbrook finished 29 points and 10 assists and really controlled the game late for his team while Paul’s group didn’t get good looks and didn’t know where to go.
- This game had a weird chippyness to it. A lot of it was between Westbrook and Paul, who were battling constantly. Westbrook was visibly frustrated in the first half with a number of things and appeared ready to lose his cool. His emotions contributed to probably three or four of his turnovers, which is something he’s got to keep in check.
- The Hornets started the game 15-15 from the free throw line. They missed six straight in the fourth. OKC shoots free throws really well, but plays some stingy free throw defense in crunch time too.
- I thought Jeff Green really played his role well and picked his spots well. He had 13 points, with five in the fourth. He also grabbed eight boards and of course had the good defense on West.
- The Chris Fall fall down count for this game: 12 falls. That’s right, Chris Paul hit the floor 12 times. I counted three legit flops and a number of falls that could’ve been avoided. His most egregious one to me was when he was whistled for a foul trying to flop on a Nick Collison screen. That was a bad one.
- OKC went through a four-minute drought from the floor in the fourth before Durant broke it with a jumper. But the Thunder survived because the defense was so good.
- The Thunder outscored the Hornets 22-12 in the third and held NOLA to 4-16 from the field in the quarter. New Orleans scored just 33 after halftime.
- Pretty soon, it’s going to be time to talk about Westbrook and his turnovers. He gets another pass from me tonight because of the way he played, plus Chris Paul is a really good defender. But Westbrook leads the league right now. Something to keep an eye on.
- Is it just me or does Emeka Okafor look a lot like Poot from The Wire?
- Durant played 45 minutes tonight and the entire fourth quarter. I guess Scott Brooks has no complaints about his effort right now.
- I genuinely think KD has turned the corner on this season. He looks confident, looks sure of himself and I’m pretty sure he’s ready to start putting up the serious numbers we’re used to.
To me, it’s a great sign when your team can win any style of game. Whether it’s a game with a lot of points or a sloppy, ugly game like this, the Thunder’s got a shot. That’s something that a lot of groups don’t have. However you want to play it, the Thunder’s ready. The Hornets may be sliding a bit, but they were 9-2 at home coming in to this one and are still a good team. To go on the road and take care of them in a tough, defensive fashion feels good.
Next up: The Cavaliers at home Sunday.