It wasn’t meant to be for the Hornets tonight as they fell just short for the second time this season to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, by a final score of 109-104.
It was a high-scoring and intense first quarter as the Thunder took a 33-31 lead. Jeremy Lamb was started strong, pouring in 12 points in the period. During the 2nd quarter, the Hornets were able to take a nine point lead behind the unique lineup of Devonte’ Graham, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, Nicolas Batum and Frank Kaminsky. This was the first time this group had played together all season as Coach James Borrego continues to test out his rotations.
Then, Thunder forward, Deonte Burton, took over and finished the half with a career-high of 11 points. As the second quarter came to a close, the Hornets found themselves trailing 62-57. Frank Kaminsky was the surprise of the half for the team as he dropped 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.
As was the theme for the whole night, the Hornets really struggled with the length of the Thunder. Charlotte finished the night with an abysmal 3 point percentage of 19.4%, something they really needed to improve on from their first matchup. Coming into the game, the Thunder ranked second in the league in defensive rating, so it was no surprise that the Hornets found themselves in this predicament.
During the fourth quarter, the Hornets’ defense was surprisngly stingy. They gave up 20 points and were able to whittle the lead down to just one point. They had huge success with the two point guard lineup of Devonte’ Graham and Kemba Walker. Graham was only 1-5 from three point range but played well on both ends and had a team-high +/- of +10.
With 20.9 seconds left, the Hornets got the ball back down one. Coach Borrego decided to go quick and Kemba raced down the court and kicked out to Marvin Williams for a three. Marvin’s three clanked off the rim and OKC recovered and Westbrook was fouled. Due to the quickness of the play, the Hornets still had time to get another play off after Westbrook hit both free throws. This time the Hornets inbounded the ball to Jeremy Lamb and had Kemba go off ball. He ran across the baseline as two screens were set for him. His defender fell down after the second screen and he got a terrific look. However, it didn’t go down. Oklahoma City recovered the rebound once again and closed the game out.
Ultimately, the Hornets lost this game at the three point line. They went 6/31 from beyond the arc, a putrid 19.4%. OKC’s length obviously affected them but the Hornets got a lot of good looks that just didn’t go down.
Kemba led the way with 25 points and eight assists and Lamb added 18 points and five rebounds. Charlotte’s bench outscored Oklahoma City’s 32 to 13.
Charlotte travels to Atlanta on Sunday to face Tre Young and the Hawks for the second time this season. Tip-Off is at 6:00 p.m.