Hornets 91, Thunder 89: West Wins It

Those blowout wins were really becoming boring, eh?

It's fitting that David West knocked down the game winner tonight. Those that followed this team during its time in Oklahoma City certainly know of his propensity to knock down ridiculous shots at the buzzer, and the degree of difficulty on West's fallaway over Serge Ibaka topped any of his previous winners.

West's performance tonight was really just a microcosm of his season- he's been getting it done, arguably better than he ever has before. His PER (21+) is higher than it's ever been. His combination of offensive efficiency and usage are higher than they've ever been. With Chris Paul playing his most diminished scoring role since his arrival in New Orleans, West has had to shoulder a significant amount of the offensive burden. And of course, defensively, he's been absolutely stellar. 

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via SBNation's Mike Prada

Of course, Chris Paul played an absolutely brilliant game as well. He hit the big threes, he drove the lane at will, he found teammates with ease, he literally grabbed the ball from Westbrook from a standstill, and, of course, came up with the unbelievable steal with 10 seconds to go. In related news, ESPN and NBA.com did not rank and ranked Chris Paul 10th in their respective MVP polls this week. Well done, gentlemen.

On to some game notes:

 

  • Remember at the start of the year, when we speculated how great it would be if Monty Williams kept Marcus Thornton in the game for his defense, even if his shot wasn't falling? That happened tonight. Marcus finished 3-12, but was an absolute terror on the defensive end. He broke up passes, anticipated offensive moves very well, and brought solid help defense. His strip of Kevin Durant down the stretch was an absolutely critical play; he essentially took a guaranteed two points right off the board for OKC.
  • Willie Green only got in the game for 8 minutes, but he made his minutes count. Twice, he followed missed Hornet layups with put-backs of his own. In the final calculus, Green's contributions were quite important.
  • Staying on the Green/Thornton train of thought, major props to Monty Williams for his rotations tonight. He pushed the right buttons every step of the way. This was especially true in the final two minutes. For a critical defensive possession in the final minute, Monty replaced Thornton with Green; Green promptly drew an offensive foul on Russell Westbrook. Monty put Thornton right back in on the offensive side. On the game's final possession, the use of Didier Mbenga to block the inbounds pass was similarly inspired.
  • Trevor Ariza played another strong defensive game. He played a big role on Chris Paul's stolen inbounds pass. Additionally, he did a terrific job on Durant in isolation situations. Durant scored the majority of his points (in the first half) on situations where he drifted off the ball to open space. On plays where Ariza was tasked with specifically sticking to him, Trevor did just that.
  • Speaking of defense on Durant, how about Chris Paul's job on KD on three critical possessions late in the fourth quarter? Chris Paul is simply a ridiculous human being.
  • Jarrett Jack finished with 3 points and 3 assists, but he did a fine job of setting teammates up. He left the game on a high note, perfectly feeding Emeka Okafor for a three point play at the 6 minute mark in the fourth.
  • Okafor's spin banked hook shot has been increasingly reliable of late, and he converted two such attempts in the game. And defensively? Oh man. He's the rock upon which all else- Paul and Ariza's on ball defense, West's help defense- is predicated for us defensively.
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