Another poor four quarter doomed the Charlotte Hornets, who fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 101-91. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 19 points, while Russell Westbrook finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists for the Thunder.
The first quarter was a game of runs. OKC jumped out to the early lead before Charlotte recovered. The Hornets then nearly took the lead, but two straight 3-pointers from Paul George pushed the lead to nine. The Thunder briefly led by 11, but costly turnovers allowed Charlotte back in it, and they trailed by just three at the end of the first.
The scored remained close for the entire second quarter. OKC led for most of it, but Charlotte took a small lead towards the end and hung on to lead by four at halftime.
The third quarter was ugly. Both teams shot around 20 percent from the field, and had combined for only 21 points two-thirds through the quarter. Charlotte gave up their lead about midway through, but kept it close. With the scored tied in the final possession, Michael Carter-Williams knocked down a 3 to give Charlotte a three point lead.
It set up what should’ve been a down to the wire fourth quarter, but, once again, Charlotte struggled in the final 12 minutes. OKC’s bench started it off. Led by Raymond Felton, the 33-year-old, angry guy you play against at the rec took the charge and helped his team take a 91-84 lead. The Thunder built on it as the starters came back in, as Charlotte couldn’t find an answer. Down 11 with under two minutes to go, only a near perfect finish would result in a comeback.
Along with poor execution in the fourth, offensive rebounds cost Charlotte. OKC had 19 of them, and, as a result, won the rebounding battle. Steven Adams was instrumental in this. He finished with seven himself by spiking the ball out to teammates following a missed shot. The extended possessions wore Charlotte down, and cost them opportunities on the other end.
Four starters, Walker, Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams, and Nicolas Batum, scored in double-figures, but the bench combined for just 27 points. MCW led the bench with seven points (which I think says it all). We did manage a Malik Monk citing, however. The rookie tallied five points, which came on back-to-back possessions. He let Alex Abrines score a couple of quick shots, but it was fun to see him get playing time, nonetheless.
Tonight’s loss is disappointing, though. Charlotte had a chance to sweep the Thunder two seasons in a row and take two-of-three at home. Instead, they head to Detroit with a 1-2 record, making Monday’s game even more important.