Thunder Hold Tight and Defeat Charlotte: Five Thoughts
By Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer.
Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Charlotte Hornets in a really close game, 109-104 the final score.
After an intense fight in the first quarter, the Thunder managed to build a little space between them and the Charlotte Hornets during the second and third quarter. Entering the last twelve minutes, Oklahoma City held a nine points lead. However, due to a strange line up made by Schröder, Felton, Burton, Patterson, and Noel to start the fourth quarter, the Thunder weren’t able to create any offense and the Hornets came back into the game thanks to a 12-4 run which brought Charlotte within one point.
Nevertheless, thanks to some solid defensive possessions, some luck, and Westbrook’s clutch rebounds and free-throws, the Thunder were able to keep the Hornets behind and win their twelfth game out of their last fourteen.
The New Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook played an amazing game. He finished with thirty points, twelve rebounds, eight assists, two steals. Westbrook shot the ball particularly well from the floor, 10-18 FG, not so much from three, 1-4 3PT, and solid from the FT line, 9-11. But Westbrook’s game was not only stats, but he also played well off the ball, ran the offense through his teammates, played some defense here and there. A new type of Westbrook. Of course, old habits die hard, he rushed an unnecessary three-pointer in the last minutes of the game and then turned the ball over two times in a row, but then he let Dennis Schröder take control of the offense. The German point guard scored right away to create some space with the Hornets. Westbrook closed the game with four clutch free-throws after he stat-padded, as he would ironically call it in the post-game interview, two crucial defensive rebounds.
Dennis Schröder, still impressive
For the first time this season, Dennis Schröder and Russell Westbrook started the game together. If people doubted the coexistence of these two players, then well, they have to think again. They are very similar players indeed, but despite all the doubts, they seem to be able to share the floor together. Dennis was once again fantastic: he shot the ball with confidence from behind the arc (4-8 3PT), attacked the basket when the defense gave him space and played again great on the defensive end of the floor. Schröder will finish the game with twenty-three points, five rebounds, and one assist.
Deonte Burton, ready
With Terrence Ferguson and Haminu Diallo out with sprain ankles, Roberson still recovering from his injury, and Alex Abrines who’s not 100%, Billy Donovan played Deonte Burton twenty-one minutes. Burton was ready and didn’t disappoint. Actually, he brought a spark from an otherwise “dead” bench. Deonte finished the game with eleven points, two rebounds, two assists, and two outstanding dunks. His forty-five days on a two-way contract are coming to an end soon, and the Thunder will need to decide what to do with the young player. They shouldn’t let him go.
Bench, not good yet
With Dennis Schröder starting, the bench numbers fall off a cliff. Obviously, Burton played well, and Nerlens Noel played some good minutes, but he scored only two points and grabbed three rebounds, that’s it. Abrines came back from illness but played only seven minutes, Felton and Patterson can’t get anything to go, and TLC played only in the first half. With so many injuries, in order to have a more balanced team, the bench unit will need to step up in the next games.
First in the West
After last night’s win, the Thunder are, with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies, tied for the first place in the Western Conference. What a difference a year can make. It has been only eighteen games, but last year, after the same amount of games played, the Thunder were 8-10 and in full identity crisis. The season is still long, and the West is packed with amazing teams, but this early wins will count a lot when the times will get harder during the rest of the season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play again at home tonight against the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off 7 pm CT.