Bobcats 100, Thunder 92
News, notes and observations from Wednesday’s 100-92 loss at Charlotte…
- What do I know? I post a blog hours before the game about how this game had all the makings of a Thunder victory and what happens? The Thunder goes out and has a meltdown in the final 2 1/2 quarters.
- If you think the word meltdown is too strong, let me assure you it’s not. OKC was ahead by 19 with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter, then watched the Bobcats outscore it 13-2 to end the half, then allowed Charlotte to go on an 18-10 run to open the third quarter. Charlotte outscored OKC 57-41 in the second half, shot 60.6 percent and shot 21 free throws, 19 of them in the fourth quarter. I would call that a meltdown.
- And don’t give me the excuse that the Bobcats are 25-8 at home. The Thunder has won at San Antonio (24-10), at Utah (26-8), at Phoenix (26-9), at Atlanta (26-7), at New Orleans (21-12), at Portland (22-13) and at Miami (20-15). This was just a bad loss. Plain and simple. It would have been different had the game been nip and tuck throughout. But it’s inexcusable when you lead by as many as 19 points, against a team on the second night of a back-to-back, playing without its leading rebounder and second leading scorer.
- That’s what should make this loss sting. Had the Thunder maintained its intensity and all-around effort on both ends for 3 1/2 more minutes at the end of the second quarter, the Bobcats might have chalked this one up and geared up for Atlanta. But the fact that OKC couldn’t continue its stout defense and torrid offense from early in the game has to be heartbreaking.
- The Thunder held the Bobcats to an opponent season-low 15 points on 30.4 percent shooting in the first quarter, building a 26-15 lead. Kevin Durant had 16 points and seven rebounds. Jeff Green had 11 points four rebounds and one blocked shot. Russell Westbrook had eight points and six assists. The Thunder shot 48.8 percent in the first half and held the Bobcats to 38.6 percent.
- Then Durant, Green and Westbrook combined for 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in the second half. The Thunder shot 41.5 percent. Charlotte shot 60.6 percent.
- Green landed hard on his left side late in the second half. He laid on the floor for a moment with players, coaches and trainers from both teams surrounding him during a timeout. But he got up and walked off on his own and remained in the game. I didn’t get to talk to Green after the game, but he wore a black sleeve on his left arm under his street clothes.
- I also spoke with James Harden before the game about his strained right hamstring. He said it’s getting better but is still one to three weeks away from allowing him to return. Today was the end of the first week of his original two-to-four week timetable.
- The officiating was very questionable tonight. At first it was both ways, D.J. Augustin getting away with a carry and Westbrook dodging a double dribble among other noticeable oversights. But as the game went on more and more calls went against the Thunder. I swear it seems like Ken Mauer called one call against the Bobcats.
- Stephen Jackson clearly was the difference. I openly wondered through Twitter whether Jackson was playing possum in the first half, when he had just two points and three assists with no rebounds in 18 first-half minutes. He had missed all five of his field-goal attempts. I didn’t want to hold it past Thabo Sefolosha that maybe he really was having a great defensive performance on him. Sefolosha has done it before. But Jackson’s nicknamed Jack 1 for a reason, and he lived up to that title in the second half. He buried a 20 footer 21 seconds in and was much more aggressive from the start of the second half on. He finished the third quarter with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting with three rebounds, two assists and one block. The Bobcats outscored the Thunder 30-19 in the period.
- Give credit to Stephen Graham, too. He scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and helped fill the void left by injured All-Star forward Gerald Wallace. Graham had several big plays in the fourth quarter. When Serge Ibaka he a nice 19-footer to cut the Bobcats’ lead to two, Graham responded with a 3 that put Charlotte up five. When Nick Collison scored on a dunk, Graham got to the line and made one of two to push the lead back to four. And when Durant hit an 11-foot jumper over him to bring the Thunder within one, Graham responded by attacking and getting another pair of free throws, this time sinking both. Said Raymond Felton: “Without Stephen Graham in there tonight, we wouldn’t have won. No question.”
- Here’s why the Bobcats struggled early on offensively. Theo Ratliff. Homeboy led all Bobcats in field goal attempts in the opening period with seven. Seven! In the first quarter! Theo Ratliff! Charlotte appeared to be trying to go at Nenad Krstic defensively, but some of Ratliff’s attempts came when all else had failed. Either way, it was a good way for the Thunder to jump out to its early lead. Boris Diaw was next with six shot attempts, and no other Bobcats player attempted more than Jackson and D.J. Augustin’s three.
- Guess how many shot attempts Ratliff had in the second half — one.
- Funny how quickly some fans can switch up. On one early possession, when Jackson was dribbling the air out of the ball at the top of the key while being defended by Krstic, a guy in the lower bowl could be heard imploring Jackson to “Pass the ball! Pass the ball! Pass the ball!” He shot the ball and missed the shot. No one was crying for Jackson to pass the ball in the third quarter.
- Tyson Chandler might never be what he was for those two seasons with the Hornets. But he’ll always have moments that make you drop your jaw. Tonight’s came in the first half, when he skied high above everyone else on the floor and tapped in a putback. It’s that athleticism and natural instinct that makes him so appealing. He would have been a great fit had his feet not given out.
- Speaking of putbacks, Ibaka’s dunk following Kyle Weaver’s miss with 9:07 left in the second quarter is one for his highlight reel. Still waiting on that level of aggression every time when he crashes the glass.
- Ibaka was all over the place in the second quarter. He initiated one play in the period’s first two minutes that I was going to use for Thursday’s paper. He blocked a layup by Jackson on one end, Weaver gobbled the rebound and got it ahead to Green. Green missed the fastbreak layup, but the trailing Collison was right there for the easy putback. At the time, the sequence summarized how the Thunder played together as a team. How OKC used defense to create offense and got a collective effort from everyone who took the floor. Needless to say, I had to hit the backspace button.
- I was walking with Mustafa Shakur from the locker room area to the court about an hour before the game and a security guard stopped the recently-signed guard and asked to see some credentials. Shakur, who had already gotten in a pre-game workout and was fully dressed in a suit, was completely confused. It was a little embarrassing. I wanted to tell him to just say he’s a player. Instead, it was a classic, ‘Welcome to the NBA, rookie” moment.
- I thought Eric Maynor was brilliant tonight. He ran the pick and roll nicely and controlled the offense masterfully when he replaced Westbrook. He limited his mistakes and was everything you could ask for out of a backup tonight. It’s been awhile since he’s had this type of performance.
- It’s not all gloom and doom. The Thunder did have the dominant first quarter. And OKC did hang in there in the fourth quarter, fighting to within one on three occasions before the lid on the rim became unbearable. After the game, everyone from coach Scott Brooks to Durant, to Westbrook to Collison seemed confident this one would be forgotten quickly. Based on how the Thunder has performed this season, I would agree with them. I expect OKC to finish this three-game trip much like it did the last one, when the Thunder won inside the Clippers and Kings’ buildings after that embarrassment at Denver.
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