Oklahoma City 90 (16–46) | New Orleans 108 (39–22)
Let's not kid ourselves: had we loss to a Thunder team with both Durant and Green riding the pine in suits we all would have started panicking about our chances in the post season. Thankfully, we don't even have to go downt hat road.
But the Thunder certainly didn't make it easy, with Russell Westbrook leading what was left of their roster through three solid quarters of basketball. But in the fourth quarter, the Hornets came alive and blew open the lead, sealing their seventh victory in a row.
CP contributed the fantastic line of 21 points on 10 for 16 shooting, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals in only 36 minutes of play. He did commit 5 turnovers, but truthfully, most of them came on bad lobs for alley-oops and crazy no-look passes in the lane (he twice faked his own teammates). Not that turnovers off these kinds of plays are more forgiveable, but it's nice to know he wasn't just losing control of the ball. He was merely trying to make the highlight reels.
The other starters all put up great numbers (Dx went 14/12, TC went 12/8, and Rasual went 20/4), but it was Peja's stand in, Julian Wright, who challenged and defeated Paul for the title of "highlight reel of the night." JuJu played out of his mind, matching a career high with 20 points (on 8 for 10 shooting) and also contributing 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in 34 minutes of play. He seemed to be everywhere, nailing mid-range jumpers, throwing down filthy dunks, and even dropping a trey.
His play was so inspiring that I'm going to recount 3 specific plays just for you, the readers.
- In the first, Julian is on the receiving end of alley-oop from Paul. We usually see the CCC coming (Tyson's man inexplicably moves to double Paul, leaving TC open in the paint for the jam), but JuJu spiced it up by flying in from the corner of the baseline.
Update: I mischaracterized this play when I first posted (must have been all the excitement). NBA.com's video highlights for clearing up the confusion. In the fourth, the Thunder steal the ball and start a fastbreak. JuJu follows follows them down the court, tips the ball away from the Thunder, who recover it. He then blocks the ensuing layup and manages to save the ball, chunking it to CP as he flies out of bounds. CP dribbles and finds an open Posey in the corner. Trey. Standing ovation from the crowd.
- Late in the fourth, JuJu throws up a trey from the right side. It clanks off the back iron, but by then, he's halfway to the goal. He rebounds his own shot and throws down a tomahawk dunk as he's flying past the hoop.
Awesome. Here's some more JuJu highlights in picture form:
Wasn't that refreshing? Of course it was. I'd like to do a post sometime soon about JuJu's performances when he's given more than his usual 10 spare minutes of playing time. "The Case for More JuJu": it's coming.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- The Thunder came alive in the second and third quarters, erasing our early 18 point lead. The Hornets got lazy on D and the Thunder refused to roll over.
- Westbrook was quite impressive. He dropped 24 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Even though that kind of looks like the ideal stat line for a small forward, Westbrook did run the point all night. He's probably a better fit for the 2 given his style of play; however, that low assist number could have had something to do with the Thunder's poor shooting (39.8% for the team).
- Despite owning just about every imaginable statistical category (except FT% and TO), the Hornets were out rebounded on the offensive glass 14 to 9. We still won the battle of second chance points (again, due to the Thunder's shooting woes), but not every team will be so forgiving.
- Our bench blew a huge lead in the second. The fans were stunned as the Thunder started the second with an 11-0 run, nearly evaporating the Hornets' 13 point lead. They proved to be more productive towards the end of the game, but by then the victory was all but sealed. We're going to need better performances from those guys if we plan to make a splash in the post season.
- Devin Brown was mostly to blame for the poor efforts at the beginning of the second, but Sean Marks' trillion (1 missed shot and no other stats in 10 minutes of play) didn't help much either.
- Paul botched an unusual amount of alley-oop passes tonight. Fortunately, Tyson and Julian were able to make the best of most of them. Meanwhile, our TV announcers starting ripping TC and JuJu for "not getting into position" and screwing up the plays. Yo, Gil and Bob: CP is awesome, but he is also human. You are allowed to note when he screws up instead of blaming other players you may like less. Of course, you both think that Westbrook and Mayo shouldn't receive consideration for ROY since their teams aren't very good (never mind that it's an award for individual performance)...
- We need new TV announcers.
Photos courtesy of yahoo.com
Composed to: The Sounds' Dying to Say This to You
The opponent's take: Welcome to Loud City