Sometimes the other team is just better. Sometimes you play a damn good game and you think you deserve to win this game. And sometimes you have to concede defeat. Tonight, the Bobcats gave it their all and hung in with a contending favorite to make a title run. With six minutes left, the Thunder turned on the afterburners. It's something that the best teams in the NBA can do. They know when they have the opposing team where they want them and exactly how to take them out.
Give as much credit as you want to the Bobcats, because they deserve a lot of it. Early in the game the Thunder were moving the ball faster than the Bobcats could keep up with, which resulted in a lot of three-point shots. Oklahoma City started 5-for-8 from long range. After that, the Bobcats put on the pressure and made sure OKC didn't get clean looks for the rest of the night. Though the Thunder finished with pretty efficient scoring numbers, the game was a defensive battle on either side. Wherever the Thunder wanted to take the ball, the Bobcats were there waiting. The Bobcats did what many think is impossible, forcing Kevin Durant to struggle all night. Durant went 8-for-24 for 28 points. That's notably inefficient for a guy that's known for putting up huge numbers on very few shots -- and yet, it's still more efficient that most players are.
Despite the Bobcats efforts, the Thunder were just a better team. Even with Durant's struggles, the only time the Bobcats led was at the very beginning. Charlotte tried to play catch up the entire night but could never quite regain the lead. The Thunder played tremendous defense, their ball movement was impressive, and despite Durant's struggles, everybody else contributed in a positive way. It was all too much of an overwhelming force for the Bobcats to handle.
Perhaps if Kemba Walker was having a better night things would have gone differently. Walker was 3-for-13 for six points and couldn't get anything going. Even his ability to create was off tonight. Of course, can you blame him when he's going up against the fast and athletic Russell Westbrook? Westbrook had possibly his best game of the season tonight. He was all over Walker on the defensive end and wore out Walker even more on the offensive end by shooting 10-for-12 from the field with 26 points.
Al Jefferson had another fantastic game, going 10-for-16 from the field and scoring 25 points. Jefferson's tear continues and you gotta wonder if any more than a handful of centers can stop him right now. He was a huge reason for why the Bobcats were able to stay in the game.
The other reason the Bobcats hung around for so long was Anthony Tolliver. While his shot faded towards the end, Tolliver hit a bunch of threes early on to keep the Bobcats close. I'm unsure if the Thunder just keyed in on him or if Tolliver's legs got tired, however, as he only made 4 of his 11 long range attempts.
The Bobcats are 0-2 so far in their road trip but they hung in with arguably the two best teams in the Western Conference. However, a loss is a loss and nobody is going to care how close the game was at the end of the season. I'm sure the Bobcats are plenty frustrated with their lack of late game execution leading to these losses. Late game execution comes with experience and the Bobcats are taking their bumps right now.