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Oklahoma City Thunder goes small to hold off Hornets, extend win streak to 9

Oklahoma City used its small lineup to escape with a 92-88 win over the Western-Conference-worst Hornets on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and, in the process, extended its winning streak to nine games.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 12, 2012

The solution seemed quite simple.

Yet it took Scott Brooks 33 1/2 minutes to make the proper adjustment. But once the Thunder's coach finally did, New Orleans didn't stand a chance.

Oklahoma City escaped with a 92-88 win over the Western-Conference-worst Hornets on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena and, in the process, extended its winning streak to nine games.

It almost didn't happen. The Thunder found itself in a much more competitive contest than it perhaps should have been largely because Brooks was hell-bent on playing his big lineup against a smaller, more active and athletic unit for the Hornets. Only when OKC went small did the Thunder dodge disaster.

The game-changing moment came with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter. OKC trailed 60-50, its 12-game streak of at least 100 points already in the rearview mirror. That's when Brooks subbed in Eric Maynor for Kendrick Perkins and rode small ball the rest of the way, watching it outscore the Hornets 42-28 to end the game.

“Our big lineup is really good; Perk and Serge (Ibaka) protecting the basket and getting rebounds and helping our guards guard in pick and rolls,” Brooks said when asked why he stuck with his more conventional lineup. “But there's going to be times in an 82-game season where you have to change things up …”

Floor-time stats of the Thunder's five-man units make it clear that the Thunder's offense is at its best when playing small ball, or one big man. But on a night when the Thunder's offense was the most out of sync it's been all season, Brooks resisted the change. The decision was even more curious considering the Hornets played major minutes with a three point guard lineup featuring Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers and Greivis Vasquez.

For large stretches, Perkins was defending Rivers and Vasquez, two players who are listed as being four and six inches, respectively, shorter than Perkins.

“It's hard, man,” Maynor said of containing a three point guard lineup. “That's with anybody if you get a 6-10 guy on you and you're 6-2. That's what they kept trying to do, trying to flatten our people out and trying to make plays that way.”

It was working.

Roberts, a 27-year rookie who went undrafted in 2008, scored 10 points through three quarters. Rivers and Vasquez combined for another 10 over that stretch.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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