So that was a pretty good fourth quarter. We all thought we were watching one of those unnecessarily close Thunder games where they can’t put away a lesser opponent.
Well that wasn’t the case in tonight’s game against the Bobcats. Heading into the fourth, Oklahoma City trailed 69-68. Kevin Durant was pretty much the only player playing well. Then, I guess you could say the Thunder turned it on. Or cranked it up. Or blew the crap out of Charlotte in the last 12 minutes.
OKC started the quarter on a 23-3 run the first six minutes and ended up outscoring Charlotte 31-12 in the period. With a little over three minutes left, the Bobcats had scored only three points in the fourth. Good defense, good offense, good everything. On the road against a team you should beat, that’s how you want to see your team close.
It really turned around when someone other than Durant started doing something. Jeff Green, after scoring just three points the first three quarters on 1-7 shooting, notched nine in the fourth. Russell Westbrook scored five of his 15 in the fourth and after six turnovers the first three quarters, had just one in the fourth. Add in some Durant, some D.J. White, a little James Harden and a 3 from Eric Maynor and the Thunder clicked all over the roster the last 12 minutes.
Defensively, it was a complete lock down. The Bobcats were forced outside every possession and seemed to be taking distance jumpers up against the shot clock every trip. Charlotte didn’t make a basket until there was under three minutes left. The Bobcats actually went nine straight possessions with nothing in the fourth. Part of it was due to horrible Charlotte offense because they’re without a go-to scorer and part of it was great Thunder defense. In the end, a 31-12 edge in money time is pretty nice though no matter how it happened.
- KD had a very KD night. 32 points on just 13 shots, 2-4 from 3 and 14-16 from the free throw line. He was locked in from the start, hitting a 3-pointer on OKC’s first possession. I love when that happens. I love when you can tell KD is locked in from the very beginning. It’s very relaxing.
- Nick Collison was again tremendous off the bench, scoring seven points and pulling down 10 rebounds in 29 minutes. He’s just such an impactful player when he’s on the floor. Example: He was a +29 in this game. The next closest player was Jeff Green and James Harden both with a +17.
- Big edge for OKC on the glass, 44-32.
- Stephen Jackson had 20 for the Bobcats, but for anyone else to score just seemed like a struggle. Derrick Brown scored 11 and Boris Diaw 13, but Charlotte just doesn’t really have offensive options. A lot of that was due to Gerald Wallace sitting out with a bad back, but I’m not sure how much a difference he would’ve really made, other than the fact he could’ve checked KD a little better.
- OKC had 10 turnovers. Again, Westbrook had seven of those.
- The Thunder went 7-16 from 3 in the game, highlighted by Harden’s 3-4 effort. When the Thunder shoots well from the outside, they are just so much better.
- Just 17 assists total for OKC after the team had shared the ball so well the past few games. The offense was a little stagnant at times, but a lot of that was due to the fact KD and the whole team did a great job at getting to the line to score. Another big night at the stripe with OKC going 30-36 on charity.
- Durant, Harden and Collison went a combined 16-25 from the field. The rest of the team went 15-46.
- Scott Brooks went with Harden in the fourth over Thabo. Obviously Thabo’s defense wasn’t a huge priority against the soft scoring Bobcats. Good move from Brooks.
- The return of Cole Aldrich! His line: two minutes, zero points, rebounds, blocks, assists, shot attempts or steals. But he did have two fouls, so he didn’t register a two trillion.
- Aldrich was on the floor with Mullens together. It really was something else. If Brooks would put Aldrich, Mullens and Krstic on the floor together at one time, I think it would create some kind of Bermuda Triangle type vortex and possibly end humanity. The basketball equivalent of crossing the streams, I think.
- Seriously though, something must be done about Byron Mullens’ facial hair. I have no idea what’s going on there. No clue.
This didn’t feel like a trap game for Oklahoma City coming in. It seemed like the Thunder would be focused and prepared and the Bobcats had just played the night before in what was maybe their most terrible performance of the season. But after three quarters, things didn’t feel right. The Thunder wasn’t necessarily flat, just not consistently good for any stretch. Oklahoma City would get a couple stops and start to appear poised to start pushing toward a good margin, but then the Thunder would turn it over, take a bad shot or give up and easy hoop. All that changed in the fourth. A good closeout of a team can make even an ugly three quarters seems really, really good.
Next up: At the Knicks Wednesday night.