What is your initial reaction to the result?
This game won't be remembered in the history books, but it was pretty interesting to watch nonetheless. The Bobcats set out from the beginning to eliminate any fast breaks, and the Thunder seemed to comply by playing with a gigantic lineup. The early part of the game mainly consisted of Thunder ISOs and Bobcat ball movement. Eventually, the Thunder's stars went cold and the Bobcats started feeding the post.
It all sounds pretty ordinary, but that's because it was extremely ordinary. There weren't a lot of highlight reel plays, and most of the intensity stemmed around post battles and the ball getting tipped around. Things didn't really start heating up until the Thunder went on a 14-0 run in the fourth, breaking through Charlotte's defense with their patented three point guard lineup.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
I feel like the play of Reggie Jackson is what really made the difference. He was extremely key in pushing down the floor for rare transition points. He was also a key part of the late run the Thunder made, and played admirable defense against Kemba Walker. Most of all, he was able to free himself of the shooting slump that he's been in lately, finishing the day at 50%.
The Thunder's defense in the post was also a factor. I mean, it wasn't good, because Al Jefferson was able to use his quick first step for easy points against Thabeet and Adams. But Thabeet did stop Jefferson a few times, and they were able to keep him from having a career night.
Obviously, the late-game run was what triggered the victory, but it wasn't really representative of the game that these two team's played up to that point. So I think that they have to be considered somewhat separately.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Bobcats went to the line 40 times. 40 stinking times. It was a pretty painful experience, especially during the doldrums of the third and fourth quarters. The frequent breaks sucked the life out of the game for a while, and kept the Thunder from establishing any sort of consistent offensive rhythm.
Also, the Thunder took 82 shots while the Bobcats took 68. This is partially due to the Thunder only taking 30 foul shots of their own, but it's also due to their dominance of the offensive and defensive boards. Overall, the Thunder had a 44-29 advantage.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
Tonight, it means that the Thunder managed to weather a bit of adversity. It was the team's first game without Perk and Sefolosha, Butler wasn't ready to play yet, and the arena was about 40% empty due to a blizzard in the area. Moving forward, the Thunder should see a boost when Butler arrives, and can hope to rely on the three-guard lineup to jump start the offense against slow-paced teams.
Thunder Wonder: Reggie Jackson, who finally found his mojo
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, who was equally impressive
Thunder Blunder: Kevin Durant, who had a really strange 14 miss streak in the middle of the game
Thunder Plunderer: Al Jefferson, proof that centers can still ball
Next Game: Versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, March 4th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.