Observations, news and notes from Tuesday’s game……….
* Here’s how bad of a start the Thunder got off to. Early in the first quarter, Rasual Butler had five points on 2-for-2 shooting with three rebounds and one block. Your OKC Thunder had one point on 0-for-4 shooting with zero rebounds.
* When Jeff Green stepped to the free throw line with 6:46 remaining in the first quarter, a Thunder fan seated behind the press table screamed, ‘Let’s go, Uncle Jeff.’ The nickname originated from LeBron James, who joined the TNT broadcast crew for the Rookie Challenge last Friday. James said Green’s game reminds him of that uncle you used to play in the back yard and called him Uncle Jeff. Wonder if Uncle Jeff will take off in OKC?
* Russell Westbrook picked up his second foul with 5:42 left in the first and never could get it going much after that.
* Westbrook was getting ticked at the officiating all night. Chris Paul was using little sneaky moves to bait Westbrook into fouls and Westbrook didn’t like it.
* When Peja Stojakovic hit a 3 from the right corner to give the Hornets a 24-9 lead, I leaned over to a Thunder employee and said, “This game’s over.” The Thunder employee said, ‘It’s a little premature for that don’t ya think? They’re shooting 77 percent from the field. That’s not gonna continue.’ And I replied, “That just means they’ll shoot 50 percent for the game.” I was wrong. The Hornets shot 49.4 percent.
* A lot of questionable calls in this game. But the charge call on Kevin Durant with 1:45 left in the first was the most laughable I’ve seen this season. Antonio Daniels was not only not set, he was moving about three different ways, up, to his right and backwards, when Durant made contact with him.
* Earl Watson absolutely “Deebo’d” Butler early in the second quarter when he just snatched the ball out of his hands. Butler ought to be ashamed to have the ball ripped out of his hands like that.
* Nenad Krstic told me in Portland that he would focus more on rebounding. Looks like he wasn’t kidding. He had six rebounds midway through the second quarter, three on the offensive end, and finished with a team-high 10 for the game.
* After Hilton Armstrong missed an ill-advised 17-footer in the first half, I leaned back over to that same Thunder employee and said, ‘The Hornets won’t shoot 50 percent if Hilton Armstrong keeps shooting.’ Armstrong proceeded to miss a layup, get a sweeping hook blocked by Krstic and miss a dunk all within a matter of five minutes.
* It soon became evident that Hilton was the best player for the Thunder. That’s right, the Thunder. It seemed whenever he was on the court the Thunder would make a run. Hilton checked back into the game with 2:23 remaining in the first half and was called for an offensive foul on an inbounds play when he blatantly pushed off to free himself to catch the pass with 45 seconds remaining. It led to a 3-pointer at the other end by Kyle Weaver that cut the Hornets lead from 11 to eight. Weaver’s layup with 1.4 seconds then cut a once 16-point lead to six.
* The Thunder unveiled its mascot, Rumble, at halftime. I was impressed with the costume and his energy. I was not impressed with him on the drums and his two missed dunk attempts. Although the one off the ladder gets an A for effort. But as one Thunder employee said to me after the intro, “How’s he gon’ miss two dunks on opening night?’ Another employee soon leaned over and said, “I guess that missed dunk was the theme of the first half.” I’m sure Rumble will have a better showing next Tuesday against the Lakers. But on this night he sucked the energy out of his own coming out party with the botched dunks.
* Scott Brooks took out Durant with 9:09 left in the fourth after he got hot. It looked to be a curious decision, but I figured with the under nine minute timeout coming, Brooks would stick him right back in after the timeout. That would make it a smart substitution, giving Durant essentially five or so minutes of rest while missing only a few seconds of actual game time. But Brooks didn’t pull him just until the timeout and it then became a curious decision. Brooks did, however, reinsert Durant at the six-minute mark, and the Thunder held on fine without him. But leaving a hot Durant in the game might not have been a bad idea to see just how much he can light it up.
* Durant’s 47 set a new career-high. And a career night again left him deflated in defeat.
* David West finishes with 37 points and 13 rebounds and no one’s talking about him after the game.
* Got to think that game-winner by Paul would have turned out a little different had Tyson Chandler been lurking in the lane.