The Thunder headed into New Orleans tonight riding high on a 3 game winning streak. The impressive part of course was having done so without their star player Kevin Durant, and for 2 games during that streak, Jeff Green as well. Tonight it was to get a little harder as they would also be without the defensively contagious Thabo Sefolosha. It showed early as the Hornets came out and put a solid lead on the Thunder early, and would, for the most part, never look back. Despite only dressing 8 players, this Oklahoma City squad competed and stayed in the game early into the 4th quarter, even grabbing the lead at one point 54-53. It was at this point the Hornets went on a quick run that would put them out front for good.
It was the 4th quarter that really separated the two teams tonight, as the Thunder trailed by only four points after the 3rd quarter, but then were outscored 32-18 in the final period. In fact it was the slow start, combined with that 4th quarter that sank the Thunders bid for their first ever 4 game winning streak, as the Hornets also had a similar first quarter, finishing at 31-18. The two periods in between the Thunder outscored the Hornets 54-45, but those 9 points better all came in the 2nd quarter as the Hornets matched the Thunder in third period.
Bottom line, it came down to an 8 man Thunder roster running out of gas after the 3rd period. Its bad enough to expect one of the worst teams in the league to compete with the Hornets in enemy territory, much less without their 3 most impactful players, Durant, Green, and Sefolosha. Seriously, you know something is wrong when a guy who couldn't buy minutes a week or two ago scores 18 points (DWilk).
It really was a great effort when you consider how undermanned they were going against a team that is solidly in the playoff mix, and a potential title contender. I think Scott Brooks performance this last week without his star players is really beginning to cement himself as head coach of this team, not only for the rest of this season, but beyond.