Okay, the Hornets were 22-30 coming in, but you don’t underestimate an actual playoff team, and Charlotte was eighth in the East. The Thunder, lest we forget, were 29-25, but eighth in the West. So it might have been useful to anticipate, not the blowout some might have expected, but a Memphis-y sort of grind, especially with Steven Adams and Kevin Durant sidelined. And that’s what it was through 42 minutes and 94-94 on the scoreboard, before the Thunder defense stiffened; with 2:00 left, it was OKC by nine, and when the horn sounded, it was OKC by seven, 110-103.
What you want to know, perhaps, is how the new guys did. First, the highlights. Enes Kanter, starting in the middle, collected a double-double: 10 points, 13 rebounds. (He also exhibited some Adamsesque free-throw shooting, going 2 for 6.) D. J. Augustin, backing up — and sometimes playing alongside — Russell Westbrook, picked up 12 points, two assists, and no turnovers. Less illuminated: Kyle Singler, starting at the four in place of KD, scored six points in 18 minutes. Steve Novak was DNP-CD. The old guys did their bits, with Serge Ibaka showing off a 16-12 and Westbrook being Westbrook with 33 points and ten assists. And Dion Waiters got 10 points the hard way, having to take 15 shots. (Shooting percentages were about even: OKC 44, 5-18 on treys; Charlotte 43, 7-24 on treys.)
And the Hornets, too, had a new guy: Mo Williams, who stepped into the point with ease, knocking down 24 points and serving up 12 dimes. In the middle, stalwart Al Jefferson did Al Jefferson-like numbers, 20 points and 12 rebounds; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s evidently found his range, was 8-14 for 20 points. The Hornets delivered on more assists than the Thunder, 28-21, but were badly outrebounded, 59-41. And the idle Brooklyn Nets slid into eighth place in the West.
Tomorrow night, the Thunder are at home against the suddenly Afflalo-less Nuggets, and Tuesday the Pacers will be in town. After that, three games out West: Phoenix, Portland, and the Lakers.