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Thunder escapes Hornets’ nest with no stings, 104-102

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Thunder were able to escape Charlotte with a road win on the second game of a back to back to get back to a game above .500. This was a pretty ugly game for both teams but a win is a win. OKC started off great, relying on their defense to build a first half lead that was as high as 16 points.

The Hornets missed their first 18 threes and had no offensive rhythm in the first half. The Thunder were able to go into the half with a 53-43 lead in what looked like a game they had under control despite some offensive struggles.

But the second half showed tired legs for the Thunder. They were missing shots that were makes in the first half. After scoring 53 points in the first half, OKC only scored 42 points. Meanwhile the Hornets were able to chip away their lead and tie the game to force OT.

The fourth quarter saw the Hornets gain back the lead and looked to have all the momentum on their side, things were heading to a Hornets win. But Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were clutch and helped the secure the win in OT.

North Carolina Native Chris Paul overall had a meh game for his standards. Paul finished with just 16 points on 6/20 shooting with six assists and seven rebounds. But 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter and OT. Paul has been one of the best players in the clutch this season, leading the league in total clutch points this season. Tonight was another example of Paul stepping up when the Thunder need him to the most.

This was the fifth straight 20+ point for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points on an efficient 10-17 shooting. Two defensive possessions that stuck out to me for Gilgeous-Alexander was late in the game where he had two straight steals off of the post that resulted in a fast break dunk, he was able to use his length to poke the ball loose and go in transition so easily. Gilgeous-Alexander was so smooth in his drives tonight too, making his signature scoop layups several times.

Dennis Schroder continues to play great, tonight he had 24 points on 10-17 shooting off the bench. OKC’s three point guards continue to impress this season.

Steven Adams finished with another double double of 14 points and 12 rebounds along with three assists. Adams had a clutch tip in after a miss from Paul on a layup that boosted OKC’s lead to 103-99 with just 18.5 seconds left in OT.

Side Notes

Thanks to a Terry Rozier technical that resulted from him heaving the ball into the crowd at the end of regulation. The Thunder started OT with a 95-94 lead. And no, I don’t understand why the technical free throw didn’t end the game but I’m sure there’s an NBA rule for that. Billy Donovan noted after the game he’s never seen anything like that before

Both team’s offenses were ugly. OKC continues their three point struggles by going 5-31 (16.1%) tonight and had an uncharacteristically bad free throw night, going just 19-31 (61.3%) from the line tonight. The Hornets were even worse from three, who started the game 0-17 from three and went 7-39 (17.9%) overall. OKC also had 14 turnovers to just 19 assists tonight. The Thunder had just a 99.0 ORTG.

Devonte’ Graham is pretty underrated and should be the Most Improve Player favorite. The 2018 NBA Draft 34th Overall Pick is averaging 19.3 points and is shooting 40.5% from three on 9.4 attempts a game along with 7.5 assists. Terrance Ferguson did a great job at taming Graham, who only scored 15 points on 6-21 shooting, including going 3-13 from three. Even with the bad shooting game, Graham was able to contribute in other ways by racking up 13 assists and grabbing nine rebounds. Graham showed off his range in the clutch by hitting three 25+ feet three pointers in the fourth quarter and OT. It’s a shame Graham plays for a team like the Hornets and not a bigger market. If Graham played for a more recognizable team, big media outlets would be arguing in favor of him being an All-Star starter.

OKC got some good contributions off the bench from the young duo of Deonte Burton and Lugentz Dort. Burton scored six points in 21 minutes and had some pretty finishes around the rim. Dort scored seven points in 17 minutes that included his first NBA three pointer and was active on the defensive side as well.

Nerlens Noel had a nice night too. Noel had eight points, seven rebounds and three steals off the bench. The only negative is the four turnovers he had in just 19 minutes. That’s a high amount for a backup center.