This year’s Bobcats will be, more or less, next year’s Hornets; whatever the name, though, they’ve fought their way out of the Eastern Conference basement into something resembling playoff contention at game time they were seventh in the East and they definitely acted like it tonight in chilly Oklahoma City, taking an early 4-0 lead and staying close pretty much the whole evening, largely due to their prodigious ability to draw fouls. Really. A couple of minutes into the fourth quarter, Steven Adams, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet had all been rung up for five fouls. Still, the standard OKC fourth-quarter defensive crunch was implemented none of those guys actually fouled out the offense suddenly caught hold, and the ‘Cats were sent out into the cold with a 116-99 whipping.
And this happened while Kevin Durant was not shooting well except from the foul line: 28 points, but 8-24 from the floor and 12-12 from the stripe. Russell Westbrook, staying under his 25-minute ceiling, knocked down 10 of 12 for 26 points; Reggie Jackson tossed in 17 and Serge Ibaka 15. (Ibaka also had ten rebounds and two blocks.) The Thunder owned the boards, 44-29, and tied the ‘Cats, normally the least turnover-prone team in the league, with 15 giveaways.
The reliable Al Jefferson led the Bobcats with 25 points on 10-16 shooting: three Charlotte reserves hit double figures, led by Anthony Tolliver with 17. And until about the 7:00 mark, they were well within reach; between then and 2:42, they managed to connect on only one shot (a jump hook by Bismarck Biyondo, 14 minutes into garbage time).
The usual 18,203 seats were sold, though a lot of them were actually vacant, mostly because it was 13 degrees at tip-off. It will be warmer Tuesday when the 76ers come to town, though I expect the reception they’re given will be decidedly frosty.