By A. Suave Francisco
The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the Charlotte Hornets' arena with a winning mindset, trying to avoid a (1-3) stretch over four games. The Hornets entered the game with the home crowd's backing, and some extra motivation to defeat the Thunder after a seven-year hiatus. Both teams played relatively well on paper, but the fate of this game fell into the hands of the referees as the Thunder fall to Charlotte 123-112.
Before we delve into how the officials made this game unbalanced, it would be wise to mention where the Thunder fell short as a team.
Russell Westbrook played his normal game but shot too many threes. Before this matchup, Oklahoma City was (1-13) when Westbrook shot more than 10 threes in a game. The trend continued after he shot 2-of-12 tonight.
This was a game where Russell could have and should have recorded his 17th triple-double of the season with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter combining for 40 points and 20 rebounds on 70.7 percent shooting from the field. Adams shot 80 percent, with his first miss coming late in the third quarter. Of course, it's hard to be too frustrated with Westbrook, a player who's responsible for the majority of 21 Thunder wins but one must wonder why he didn't continue pushing Adams and Kanter the ball down the stretch. It all stems back to the belief that he doesn't completely trust his teammates.
Other than that, it's hard to find any other major flaw in tonight's game other than the referees. If you play, formerly played, or just watch basketball, you'd know that there's a foul on every possession, no matter the game. That's why there's such confusion and anger following this tough loss.
Charlotte shot 40-of-49 from the line and Oklahoma City shot 19-of-23. If you aren't good with math, that's a 26-shot difference between the two which makes for a lopsided outcome, barring just an average free throw shooting night from the Hornets. The Thunder didn't play that much more physical but got double the fouls called. This was the most glaring difference in the contest. Not to mention the technical foul call on Westbrook, which was a misunderstanding but obviously couldn't be overturned during the game.
The Thunder are still in a decent place in the Western Conference with a (21-15) record, just a half-game out of sixth place, one game out of fifth, and a game and a half behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth.
This is a game the Thunder have to immediately move into their subconscious, with their third matchup against the Houston Rockets (27-9) looming just 24 hours away. The defense will have to ramp back up to stop the entire Rockets team, but specifically, James Harden who averages 28.4 points, 119 assists, and 8.2 rebounds per game.