The Thunder showed why they’ve been on the receiving end of the three straight blowout losses early on. They missed shots every way imaginable, and even missed their first four free throw attempts. The Hornets took a little time to get going, but they eventually found their groove on their way to a 32 point quarter. But the Thunder found their groove as well, splashing five first quarter 3-pointers, with Aleksej Pokusevski hitting all four of his attempts from deep before a last second heave. The Hornets held a three point advantage at the first intermission.
The Thunder jumped on the Hornets to start the second quarter. The Hornets settled for a lot of jumpers that didn’t go in while the Thunder put pressure on the basket. The Hornets eventually stabilized and recaptured the lead, then took a five point lead into the halftime break.
Jalen McDaniels was the story of the third quarter. He surpassed his previous career high of 11 points in the third quarter alone. He scored 12 of the Hornets first 15 points in the frame, giving him 19 for the game. He was matched step for step by Pokusevski, whose monster third quarter kept the Thunder afloat. The Hornets scored the last five points of the quarter to give them an eight point working margin heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hornets scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, making it a 12-0 run spanning the gap between the final two quarters of play. A Thunder timeout helped them and Theo Maledon get going, but it wasn’t anything a couple of Brad Wanamaker 3-pointers couldn’t undo. The Hornets held a double digit lead for virtually the entire fourth quarter. Any hopes for a last second Thunder comeback were dashed by Devonte’ Graham, who checked into the game, splashed a three, then dropped a dime to Cody Zeller to put the game comfortably out of reach.
A showdown between McDaniels and Pokusevski was not what anyone saw coming, but it’s what we got. The Hornets starting unit generally played pretty well, so I’d expect to see a lot more of that until players start coming back from injuries.
Seven Hornets finished in double figures, including Brad Wanamaker and Cody Zeller off the bench. Zeller chipped in 14 rebounds to go with his 15 points.
The win tonight means the Hornets have guaranteed a non-losing record on the last significant road trip of the season. Up next is a visit to the Bucks before the Hornets play 15 of their final 21 games in the friendly confines of the Spectrum Center. They’re currently tied with the Hawks for fourth in the East.