5 good things from tonight's win over Charlotte
By Addam Francisco
Wednesday night the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Charlotte Hornets 109-95 in what was honestly an easy win for the team and their 6th straight win. Going into this game, OKC knew that Kemba Walker was Charlotte's number one guy, scoring a franchise record high 52 points a few games ago. Tonight, Kemba scored 21 points and that wasn't enough to beat the now (32-12) Thunder. There are five specific things displayed tonight that helped lift the Thunder over the Hornets.
1.) Kevin Duran't play
Tonight was just one of those nights for KD... Although he didn't have a spectacular shooting night, 9-of-20 isn't too bad. He started the game out firing with 15 points in the first quarter alone. That pretty much set the tone for the game as Oklahoma City led 30-22 at the end of the first quarter. Charlotte's P.J. Harrison was the primary guy guarding him in the first quarter and before the end of the quarter he was forced to sit down with three fouls, in attempt to guard Durant. Kevin's 5 rebounds contributed to OKC's 51 total rebounds compared to Charlotte's 34. Durant's 5 assists really helped get other players involved, especially in the first quarter. Kevin finished with 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
2.) Russell's all-around play
Russell has been finding ways all season to be a relevant force in the game. The reigning scoring champion really has developed, well enhanced an aspect of his game that he was so greatly criticized for early in his career. Critics have been forced to quit the talk of Russell being a shoot first point guard. Russell is clearly Russell. There isn't really a tag you can put on him. When his shooting game is off, he focuses solely on getting his teammates involved and creating extra possessions for his team. When his teammates aren't having a good game, he turns on the offense and can score 40 if needed. Tonight was one of those games where he had a hard time getting the ball in the basket so he decided to do pretty much everything else. In just three quarters of play he finished with 16 points, 15 assists, 8 rebounds, and 5 steals. These are the types of games where he sits back and laughs at the critics.
3.) Balanced scoring
Like stated earlier, the team got off to a quick start on Charlotte and that's because of balanced scoring. Four starters, all but Serge Ibaka scored in the first 5 minutes of the game. As a matter of fact, Andre Roberson was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field for 7 points until he missed one shot later in the game. Also, six of the ten guys that played tonight scored in double-figures and everyone that played scored. Going into the toughest stretch of the season, this is a great sign for the Thunder. Everyone coming together at the perfect time.
4.) Second team continues to play well
How many times this year could fans say that Kyle Singler had a good game? Well tonight was one of those nights, but there's a reason behind that. This second team struggled all season until D.J. Augustin was benched, since then the emergence of Cameron Payne has been very beneficial for this team. Kyle shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field and 3-of-3 from the 3-point line, and Payne had 3 assists, two of which were cross court passes to the left and right wing for an open Singler three and one was a quick zip pass in the lane for a pretty little hook shot. Oklahoma City hasn't seen Singler this active since he's been here. Actually, Kyle hasn't looked this good since his days back at Duke. The bench had 40 points tonight.
5.) Good defense again
Pretty much the first half of the season seemed to be OKC trying to figure out the defensive agenda. Now they seem to have it. For the exception of the 2nd quarter, this team played absolutely great defense holding yet another team to under 100 points. Kemba Walker has been torching teams these past couple of weeks offensively but he was held to right around his season average of 20 points tonight with 21. The stat sheet doesn't reflect how good OKC played defense tonight, due to that slip up in the second quarter.