Thunder (16-8), Hornets (14-8)
It was over when
NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant drained two free throws, giving Oklahoma City a five-point lead with 9 seconds remaining. New Orleans hopes of squaring the season series with OKC were severely damaged by a fourth-quarter stretch in which the hosts missed five straight free throws. NOLA lost for just the third time at home in 12 games.
Hornets MVP: David West was the unquestioned focal point of the offense again, taking 17 shots through three quarters, more than twice as many as any other Hornet at that stage of the game. West finished with 24 points on 11-for-18 shooting. He also grabbed 13 rebounds to go with four assists and four steals. One other thing to note: West played 41 minutes, with Jason Smith logging just seven.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jarrett Jack turned in his best performance as a Hornet. His energetic play helped stake New Orleans to a 59-52 halftime lead. The backup point guard finished with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, while notching four rebounds, three assists and three steals, all squeezed into 15 minutes of action. Jack has been well below his six-year career norms in field-goal and three-point percentage, so it shouldnt be surprising if he starts to push those statistics upward over the next few weeks.
The buzz on
Hornets players focus amid off-the-court distractions this week. Time after time over the past few days, West and Chris Paul have repeated the mantra we can only concern ourselves with things we can control which obviously does not include the teams ownership situation. Its probably wise for the players to stick to that basic approach in interviews, much as the current Thunder players did when they were in location limbo during the 2007-08 season, Kevin Durants rookie year.
Theres another reason why the Hornets may be well-equipped to focus only on whats happening on the court. As Monty Williams has said, the roster is filled with players who are motivated to succeed this year, as a result of recent events of their career, whether its been injuries or getting traded. We have some guys who are trying to prove that they belong in this league, Williams said. Other than their core guys led by West and Paul, the Hornets dont have a slew of players who have the luxury of pondering where theyll be playing, say, two years from now. Theyre just trying to make sure that by then itll be for an NBA team.
Blog question of the night: The Hornets debuted their new gold alternate uniforms, giving them four full sets of game gear (white, blue, gold, Mardi Gras). Which of the quartet is your favorite?