After last night's pitiful showing against the Wizards, most fans expected the Thunder to steamroll the Hornets in Oklahoma City. True to form, our guys decided to surprise us yet again by playing a spirited 48 minutes tonight. Down only two with 8.1 seconds left in the game, the Hornets called timeout and Monty decided to go for the win. The play looked to be drawn up for Ryan Anderson, but he was unable to get a good look so Greivis Vasquez had the pleasure of putting up the final shot. Unfortunately, it didn't come all that close.
For much of the night, the Hornets held the lead as the Thunder could never get going. Anderson got off to a hot start once again, posting 10 points in the first quarter. In the second, Brian Roberts caught fire and made his final four shots of the half, good for 10 points of his own.
Predictably, the Thunder came out with better intensity in the 2nd half, but the Hornets didn't wilt this time around. They met the challenge, getting contributions from a variety of players, and held an 11 point advantage with 2 minutes to go in the third quarter. Then, Brooks deployed little used Reggie Jackson and he seemed to give them a much needed spark. Oh, and did I forget to mention Kevin Durant decided to turn on the jets? He poured in 14 points in the last 14 minutes of the game.
Several times in the final frame, it appeared the Thunder were going to put the game on ice but it never materialized. A couple of timely three point field goals by both Austin Rivers (!?!) and Roberts were clutch. Anthony Davis also got into the act adding 7 crucial points down the stretch.
1. Intensity. Twenty-four hours ago, the Hornets lacked the tenacity to manage a win against one of the worst NBA teams. Tonight they almost beat one of the championship favorites on their home floor. They matched the Thunder in both rebounds (43) and turnovers (10), but more importantly, never let them go on one of their patented runs. Sure they seemed to miss more shots than usual, but plenty of credit needs to be given to our guys for displaying excellent hustle, defensively and on the glass.
2. Group effort. No one particularly stood out tonight as the Hornets got contributions from almost everyone at different points in the game. For instance, Robin Lopez controlled the paint well by grabbing 9 rebounds and rejecting 4 shots in a hair under 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Brian Roberts scored a game high 16 points off the bench.
3. Westbrook Minimized. The Hornets shut down the dynamic point guard holding him to 14 points on 14 shots. He had his shot rejected at least 3 times by my count in the first quarter and it appeared to have an effect. He was noticeably passive through much of the rest of the game, preferring to defer to his teammates.
1. Tunnel vision. Despite the decent offensive showing, the Hornets were still unable to take advantage of a number of open players. On plenty of occasions, a big would flash open in the paint or an extra pass would have resulted in a wide open jumper. Our guards, when pressured, simply put their heads down too much and fail to see the open man. Never was this more evident than the final shot of the game. Had Vasquez remotely glanced to his left, he would have noticed a wide open Roberts at the top of the key. His man was chilling in the paint, only concerned about a possible rebound.
2. Wing players largely irrelevant. Everyone was guilty tonight. For the majority of the game, Al-Farouq Aminu, Xavier Henry, Darius Miller and Rivers were ineffective. Not surprisingly, Monty finished the game with Roberts, Vasquez and Rivers. Someone, especially at shooting forward, needs to step up and play with consistency. If not, I expect that once Eric Gordon returns, 3 guard lineups will be much more commonplace.
The Hornets face the Minnesota Timberwolves at home this Friday. It will be important to try and pick up a win as the following four games will be on the road. Geaux Hornets!