They can still scratch

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.

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