Since the rebirth of basketball in Charlotte, there are two things that have given the franchise consistent fits: LeBron James and the team that calls Oklahoma City home.
The Thunder are normally a matchup problem for the Hornets. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant represent two of the league's top 10 players, and Westbrook is particularly troublesome for the 6-foot-nothing at best Kemba Walker, as Westbrook can post up on him (or any Charlotte point guard for that matter) and score seemingly at will.
Charlotte usually has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to try to slow down Durant. But last night, that duty went mostly to P.J. Hairston, who did his best to try to contain the Thunder's former league MVP. Unfortunately, Durant is just miles ahead of Hairston, who looked overwhelmed and out of his element trying to stop him.
While those are some big reasons why the Hornets lost 109-95 Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, they are far from the only reasons.
The team flat out did not play well
In order to beat a team as good as Oklahoma City is, you have to bring your A game, and Charlotte was far from their best.
The team looked sloppy on offense early and often, which helped lead to 16 turnovers, well above their average of around 10 per game. Chris Kroeger said it best when it came to turning the ball over against the Thunder.
There are a handful of teams (the elite ones) in the NBA where every single possession matters against them. The Thunder are one of them.— Chris Kroeger (@Kroeger) January 21, 2016
Then, there was the defense. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. The team was disorganized and inconsistent all night, clearly missing their defensive quarterback once again (Kidd-Gilchrist cannot return soon enough for this reason alone). The Thunder feasted in the paint and inside against the Hornets bigs, scoring 42 points in the paint and outrebounding Charlotte 51-34, including 14-6 on offensive boards. Steven Adams is quickly becoming a gigantic thorn in the Hornets' side, and five of Enes Kanter's six rebounds were offensive.
That will simply not get it done on the road against of the league's best teams.
Injuries did not help
It has been tough enough for the Hornets without Kidd-Gilchrist or Al Jefferson. Then, the team learned shortly before tipoff that Jeremy Lamb miss the game. Then, Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller each had to leave the game due to injury.
I know every team at this point of the season is dealing with injuries. It just seems like the Hornets with more injuries to key players (and at poor times) than the average team.
In Zeller, Lamb and Batum alone, the Hornets were missing a combined 34 points per game. For a team that has been struggling to score consistently lately, that alone is a major blow.
Not all is bad
Believe it or not, there were positives to take away from last night's loss. First, Frank Kaminsky. This is the fourth game in a row that the rookie has put up double-digit points, and he is doing so in impressive fashion, putting moves on veteran players that one would not expect to see from a rookie. He is hilarious off the court, and has been far better than expected on it.
Kaminsky helped lead Charlotte's bench, which was the main reason this game was close for as long as it was. The bench scored 57 points and had three players in double-digits — Jeremy Lin (16), Kaminsky (15) and Troy Daniels (11). Brian Roberts was one point short of making it four bench players with double-digit points.