It's been quite a while since those days, but there was a time when OKC wasn't the powerhouse they are today. They were once the laughing stock of the league recording multiple 5+ game losing streaks in 2 seasons prior to 0910 (9 according to Basketball Reference). Durant and Westbrook weren't superstars in their rookie and sophomore seasons. Harden and Ibaka were just slightly above average in their first 2 seasons. Jeff Green was atrocious. Their bench was horrible. You know that.
And yet here we are, almost 4 years later and the city that we once called home, is now treated to a win on more than 60% of their games (and maybe 75% of the games in their Arena). Nobody remembers that time.
OKC devastated us with their length, their athleticism, their teamwork, their shooting and experience. That game was absolutely a torture to watch for Hornets fans who wanted to see a comeback game from a disappointing HOU game. How did OKC do it? Tonight, OKC splashed 3 after 3 on our defense, led by Durant and Martin. Both combined to shoot 10 of 16 from 3 PT land. This means that combined, Durant and Martin accounted for 71% of OKC's made 3s while taking just 55% of OKC's 3PT attempts. When your coach's defensive philosophy is to "pack the paint and hope they miss from outside", there will be nights where the opponent makes you pay. And tonight, they made us pay, big time.
That defensive philosophy is a sound strategy - regardless if they make or miss their outside shots - if when we talk about "outside" shots we mean non 3PT shots. But, in the 2 years prior to this season, the Hornets allowed the 3rd most 3 PT attempt in the league. Luckily, the Monty's compensated for this by allowing a below average eFG% on 3PT attempts in all 3 seasons (including this year).
But still, it speaks to the highly volatile nature of Monty's defensive philosophy - he packs the paint, telling his players not to close out hard on shooters (something I saw repeatedly today and the years prior) and instead forcing opponents to shoot a 3 over a contested arm.
If you didn't watch the game, you'd actually find an easy time looking at the positives:
- The Hornets outrebounded OKC (34% vs. 22%).
- The team, turned the ball over less than OKC (10.9% vs. 13.6%)
- The team won the FT battle -- regardless if you look at FTM/FGA (28.1% vs 21.6%) or FTA/FGA (35.9% vs. 27%)
Schedule as I see it for this team: 13-14: Fight for 7th/8th seed. 14-15: Fight for top 4 seed. 15-16: Fight for WC title. Still on track
Not surprisingly, the OKC Thunder -- the team that just toasted us -- followed a similar timeline:
Finished 0708 as one of the worst teams in the league. The following season, they finished again, as the worst team in the league. And then in 0910, they won the 8th seed and took the Lakers to 6 games. The next season, they finished 4th in the West and reached the West Finals before getting demolished by the eventual champs (Dallas). The following season, they reached the NBA Finals where Lebron exerted his greatness.
I'd bet my entire life savings that New Orleans will follow this timeline (with or without that pesky Gordon injury bug) sooner than later. Mark my words -- New Orleans will probably NOT compete for a playoff spot this year unless Gordon plays a significant amount of minutes. Even then, we'll be lucky to get into the playoffs. But 2 years from now? The sky is the limit.
So for now, celebrate the little things. Don't be frustrated that Vasquez couldn't drive through Perk (he couldn't), or that Brian Roberts continues to hold the ball a second too long after a ball reversal (he does), or that Anthony Davis continues to hoist jumper after jumper (he did).
All of this is part of a bigger wheel that is turning ever in our favor.
Some day, we'll be the ones on the top. Mark my words.