The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Charlotte Hornets on the road, 101-91. Breaking an abysmal 3-game losing streak, the Thunder started aggressive, lost their way, and the oft-maligned bench saved the day in the 4th, averting what would have been only the latest in a long string of putrid performances against lottery teams.
The Thunder were “led” by Russell Westbrook’s 25-10-7, but as he has done more than once in going against Kemba Walker, too often tried to win the personal battle at the expense of the goal of winning. Despite starting out well, Russ finished shooting only 10-27 and 0-3 from 3-point range.
However, it was Russ’ backup, Ray Felton, or as I know him affectionately as “Fat Ray” now and forever more, that tilted the trajectory of the game. Through 3 quarters, the Thunder looked lifeless, coasting to another defeat, bereft of any urgency, looking content to play out the string like many other lottery teams (in March and April). In other words, yet another “paycheck game.”
But then, like Mighty Mouse, Felton stemmed the tide. Staring at a 3 point deficit entering the 4th, Fat Ray and the Scrubbies (fantastic garage band) outscored the Hornets 22-8 to break the game open. Felton was bowling balling his way to the rim (somehow he even managed an ORB tip-in) while setting up Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant, and Patrick Patterson during the run. It was the first sign of real emotion from this team since the ending of the Bucks game, a sign that said that Ray and the others aren’t ok with losing to another lottery team.
I winced a bit when the starters returned late, but fortunately for OKC, at this point the Hornets had become one-dimensional and Walker was ice cold from the field. Even with a heaping handful of bonehead plays, OKC managed to hang on for the win.
Is this a step forward? Let’s be charitable and say NO. Things are still a long ways away from being even ok, and this game didn’t move that needle at all. The OKC3 combined to shoot 19-55 with many badly conceived and finished possessions, none more egregious than one ‘set’ by Melo that made me want to
get a colon cleanse eat some cereal.
But it’s still better than a loss.
Next game: vs Sacramento Kings on Monday, Jan. 15th at 7PM CDT