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Thunder 97, Hornets 92: Friday Night Loss

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The new jerseys looked sharp but didn't particularly help. Poor execution on the offensive and defensive ends led to another loss to the Thunder.

It's easy to blame this loss on the free throw shooting, but I don't think that's fair.

Let me just say I really, really disagree with running plays for either Emeka Okafor or Trevor Ariza down the stretch. Neither guy finishes well at the rim, but more importantly, both are awful free throw shooters. Okafor is connecting on just 57% of his free throws this year while Ariza hasn't been much better at 68%. With four minutes left in the game, the Hornets ran back-to-back plays for Ariza and Okafor, and they combined to go 1-4 from the stripe (and that's not to mention Oak's two misses after a loose ball foul on the next play). Even with perfect execution, they weren't high percentage plays.

This loss was largely a function of our inability to keep Oklahoma City off the foul line down the stretch. Overall ,the Thunder attempted a free throw every one and a half minutes. Durant and Westbrook shot 8 free throws, and a number of supporting players got to the line at least once or twice. Four of the Thunder's last possessions ended at the line, including each of their final three. 

That said, I wouldn't pin this loss entirely on the defense. Oklahoma City averages 108.4 points per 100 possessions. We held them to 106.6- league average is 106.8. We forced them to shoot extremely poorly from the field and forced turnovers. Both of those things outweighed our tendency to put them on the line and a mediocre defensive rebounding game. 

The highly inefficient offense was equally culpable. Marco Belinelli missed 9 of 14 shots,Trevor Ariza missed 6 of 9, Okafor missed 4 of 6, and the backup bigs (Smith + Mbenga) missed all five of their shots. Most importantly, nobody forced the issue and got to the line consistently. The Hornets finished with an efficiency of 101 points per 100 possessions against a rather poor defensive side. The Thunder allow 108.4 per 100 this season, and the league's worst offensive team (the Bucks) averages 100 per 100. In many respects, we effectively "guarded ourselves."

Final thoughts:

  • David West's offensive rebounding was nice to see. With 6 total O-boards, West more than made up for an off night on the glass for Okafor. It's been a while since we've seen him rebound like this. 
  • My initial assumption was that Russell Westbrook burned Chris Paul to a crisp. But Westbrook did commit seven turnovers on the night, and had four of his shots blocked. But, yeah, he still did at least moderately toast Chris Paul.
  • Jarrett Jack had a really, really great game. He played terrific defense (including 3 steals), scored 13 points on 7 shots, with 3 assists, and just one turnover.
  • For the jersey contest: West scored the first points, Westbrook attempted more free throws than Green did field goals, and Willie Green committed the most fouls among backups.