Thunder 84 – Bobcats 81: Thunder = playoff spoiler

Box Score

Tonight’s game was a contest that was almost exhausting to watch.  The Thunder and the Cats squared off and the refs just mostly let them go at it. Few fouls were called, bodies were flying, shots were clanging and the Thunder were lucky to walk away with a victory. Not lucky as in they didn’t deserve it, for they worked hard and gave really incredible effort, but they fell just one shy of their season record for turns with 24. The one game the Thunder got 25, it cost a coach his job. To win a game when you give the other team roughly 25% more scoring opportunities is a rare thing.

I’m sure Kev will be along shortly to give a better defensive analysis, but my impression was that the Thunder really clogged up the lane and defended the post and high post. The three point shot was there all night for the Cats, but once they came inside the arc it seemed like Thunder bodies were everywhere. Kyle Weaver was a MAN tonight: 9 points on 4/5 shooting, 5 boards, one dime, 4 steals and 3 blocks in 22 minutes.  The Pac 10  all-defensive team player, who was a draft pick of the Bobcats gave the Bobcats a handful.

The Thunder were hot shooting in the first half (55%) and the Cats were cold (35%). It looked like everything was going the Thunder’s way except that it kept coughing up the ball-15 in the first half. Still the Thunder managed to get an 11 point lead.

In the third quarter the shots quit falling for the Thunder and they were only able to sink 6 field goals and score 16 points. Meanwhile the Bobcats were able to take a bit of advantage of the continued turns (6 more in the third) and poor shooting and close to within three points at the end of the third.  What’s crazy is that it never even should have been a game. The Bobcats never shot higher than 39% in any quarter.

Seemingly just to make it interesting the Thunder let the Bobcats get a small lead at 67-66.  Then, about halfway through the 4th quarter Durant picked up his fifth foul. Thabo was already out injured, Weaver had just come out for a breather, Livingston and Westbrook were already in the game, I was horrified at the thought of Brooks sending KD to the bench and bringing in Chucky Atkins or Damien Wilkins. Thankfully Brooks gambled and left KD in; rightfully so as he nailed the Thunder’s only three pointer a few moments later to get the lead back to 75-71.

Krstic, who had one of his finest games in Thunder blue nailed a deep jumper with 48 seconds left to get the lead to 5. It was followed by a D.J. Augustine three with mere seconds left.

The final sequence was big time as Westbrook held the ball at the top of the arc until there was just a few seconds left on the shot clock and then drove to the hole. He missed and the Cats’ Boris Diaw got the rebound and began the break. He got the ball to Ray Felton on the left wing who immediately drove to the basket. Krstic rotated over to help and wound up falling down. Felton attempted a little runner that was blocked by Green, off the backboard. Nobody got the rebound and so it fell into the hands of Krstic, who was still on the floor – ball game! The Cats still got a shot at the bucket after Durant missed one final free throw but the Thunder sealed the deal and ended the home finale with a win and played the role of playoff spoilers for the Bobcats.

Bullets:

  • Despite the Thunder’s great first half shooting and 47% overall, their offensive efficiency was a terribly stinky 88.4 and the Cats were 85.3. All of those turnovers in no way help your ability to put the ball in the hole.
  • The game opened up with a Vladi Radi/Kevin Durant matchup. I was loving it. Having seen Vladi for his years in Seattle I just knew he would shoot them right out of the game, but Larry Brown is no dummy. He got Vladi out of there and kept him at 18 minutes on the night. He was 1-5 by the first timeout in the first quarter.
  • Despite Charlotte being one of the slowest (4th) teams in the league, this game still used a quick 95 possessions. The Thunder were the aggressor, running frequently off of defensive rebounds and steals.
  • In the second quarter the Thunder used a lineup of Rose (Collison was out), White, Green, Livingston and Weaver. I didn’t catch the numbers but it was very effective.
  • The Thunder again reached the 50 rebound mark. Some of it was the poor shooting of the Cats, but the Thunder really collapsed on the rim defensively and gang rebounded; much like this team was doing in January.
  • Thabo must have the same hair stylist as Ben.
  • I can’t remember a game that had so many missed dunks and layins; mostly from the Bobcats. I mean they must have failed to convert 15-20 close shots.
  • 19 of the Bobcat’s 37  first half points came off of Thunder turns….wow!
  • It was like a mash unit for awhile. Thabo hurt his hand, Westbrook got clobbered in the back of the head. Green I think got a hard elbow in the back and asked out of the game, and Weaver got hit in the face.
  • Again, Weaver was impressive. First he looked into the eye of the beast and held his ground as a charging Gerald Wallace came at him under the basket. Weaver was able to get a hand on the shot and block it. Next he got a steal and led a fast break with an awesome bounce pass to Green in stride for a dunk. Later he closed out on a hot shooting D.J. Augustine at the three point line and blocked the shot without fouling.
  • During a few sequences in the second half, Livingston was going right at the tiny backcourt for the Cats. He would either post up D.J. or shoot over him down low. It was just excellent coaching sending him down there when he has 8 inches on DJ and close to as much on Felton. He hit a couple of great baskets down low and forced Larry Brown into doubling Liv in the post.
  • The Bobcats starter’s were a combined 20/67-29%.
  • The Thunder as a team had an assist to turn ratio of .7!
  • The Thunder blocked 11.4 % of the Cat’s field goal attempts!
  • Don’t look at the box score, you don’t even want to know how many turn overs Westbrook had….

Any win is a good win. It looked like the Thunder fans at the Ford Center were having a rocking time.  Royce said it was “loud and crazy”.  It was a great way to close out the 41st and final home game of the season.

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