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Thunder 97, Hornets 92

by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 10, 2010

Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at New Orleans.

  • It’s painful at times to watch Chris Paul play after his knee injury. He clearly is not yet 100 percent. Although he still has flashes of brilliance, his quickness and agility is not the same. You see it most when he’s on defense and has to rely on lateral quickness. Russell Westbrook blew by him four times in the first quarter alone. I wonder if C.P. will ever be the same.
  • The battle between Paul and Westbrook was a good one. It was at its best late in the first half, when Westbrook blew by Paul for a layup and Paul returned the favor at the other end. Both players are two of the most fiery guys in the league, and when they go at each other neither wants to give an inch. Circle your calendars for the last two meetings between these two teams.
  • Kevin Durant’s playmaking in the fourth quarter was as good as its been all season. In fact, it’s what we saw out of him in the preseason, when it looked like he was going to come back this year much improved in that area. Durant set up teammates on three consecutive possessions and had four assists in the fourth quarter. He has now registered six assists in each of the past two games, and these last two contests could be a turning point for his passing.
  • David West was doing whatever he wanted to the Thunder tonight. He finished with a team-high 24 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. He’s an incredibly tough cover, and Jeff Green obviously didn’t have success against him. But Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison were only marginally better.
  • The Thunder has got to figure out how to slow down these power forward before the playoffs. On this three-game trip, the Thunder watched Carlos Boozer get 29 and 12, Kevin Love notch 22 and 21 and West register 24 and 13. None of those guys come anywhere close to the skill level of Pau Gasol.
  • Give New Orleans credit. The arena wasn’t even close to half full, but the Hornets came out and played tough. Hornets coach Monty Williams talked before the game about how other teams with packed arenas have an advantage because of their crowds. But his team showed up tonight. And the fans who were in attendance (generously listed as 14,428) were pretty loud.
  • I understand Green is considered a glue guy and the ultimate team player. But there is no reason for him to only attempt three shots in the first half. Hornets rookie Quincy Pondexter had as many shots off the bench in just eight minutes. Here’s an idea: if West is killing you on one end, go back at him and make him defend you at the other. Between Green, Westbrook and Thunder coach Scott Brooks, somebody should have made that call.
  • The Hornets were called for four defensive three second violations.
  • Nenad Krstic missed this one because of a lower back strain. Cole Aldrich also was inactive because of a left rib contusion. Both are listed as day-to-day.
  • Without Krstic, Serge Ibaka got the start at center and put up 18 points with nine rebounds and three blocked shots. I thought his performance embodied how the Thunder has made due when short-handed this season.
  • New Orleans was 16-for-16 from the stripe with 4:12 remaining. Then the Hornets missed six straight free throws to all but gift-wrap this win for the Thunder. OKC made seven of eight foul shots in the fourth.
  • After allowing the Hornets to score 32 points in the first period, the Thunder held the Hornets to 33 points in the second half. That’s becoming a theme for the Thunder.
  • The Thunder held the Hornets to 12 points on 4-for-16 shooting in the third quarter and forced New Orleans into eight turnovers. One of the best quarters this season by OKC.
  • OKC is now 12-1 in games decided by seven points or less.
  • A 9-4 road record is just as impressive.
  • I’ll have to look it up, but the Thunder has to be close to the bottom of the league in offensive rebounds allowed. Teams are just playing volleyball at the rim against the Thunder. OKC allowed 11 offensive boards tonight, and it felt like much more. Something has got to be fixed there.
  • The Thunder had 18 assists against 20 turnovers in this one. Not good.
  • Although the Thunder’s bench was outscored 20-10 (Jarrett Jack pouring in 13 by himself), I thought James Harden looked good again attacking the rim and showing more of a quick trigger. He played just eight minutes in the second half, though, and didn’t look good.
  • Something is different about Eric Maynor and I’m not sure what. He hasn’t been very effective lately and tonight’s stat line is as bad as it’s been: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, two turnovers and two fouls in 10 minutes. In his past 11 games, Maynor has averaged just 3.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 turnovers.
  • Up next is a four-game home stand. The Thunder will welcome Cleveland, Houston, Sacramento and Phoenix with a chance to come out of it 20-8. Said Durant: “We’re on a good roll right now, I think. These last two games were hard-fought wins. So we’ve got to take care of our home court. We got to have that playoff mentality going into our home floor these next four games.”

-DM-

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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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