After 36 minutes, I was convinced the Charlotte Bobcats were going to pull off the upset: they led 69-68 after trailing by five at the half, and the Thunder had not looked all that impressive in the third quarter.
Nine minutes and eight seconds later, the ‘Cats got their first field goal of the quarter. James Harden came back with a trey, and that was it for the starters for both sides: Charlotte finished the fourth quarter with a total of 12 points, and the Thundermen got on the plane to New York with a 99-81 victory in hand.
Which makes me wonder what Scott Brooks yelled to his troops before that final frame began. They started the quarter with a 7-0 run, which eventually grew to 23-3. A more methodical destruction, you cannot ask. Kevin Durant, after a shaky start, finished 8-13 from the floor with 32 points. Serge Ibaka (we’re still Krstićless) was his not-so-old self again, and Nick Collison and D. J. White were instrumental in keeping the Bobcats away from the bucket while Jeff Green dropped in nine points (of 12) in the fourth.
Stephen Jackson had a pretty good night, with 20 points, and Nazr Mohammed blocked four shots, one more than the entire OKC squad, but the go-to guy for Charlotte was Boris Diaw, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. The ‘Cats shot only 40 percent; then again, the Thunder didn’t break 44.
Mullens Report: Byron appeared briefly in the first quarter, and returned for garbage time; in eight minutes, he recorded three rebounds, two fouls, and a three-second violation; he missed two shots.
Tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden, and while there’s some argument among the pundits whether the Knickerbockers are as good as their 16-12 record — they’ve dropped three straight to marquee teams — hey, it’s Madison Square Garden, where anything can happen.