There’s a lot of sideline talk about “pace,” usually because (1) it’s too fast or (2) it’s too slow. Tonight, things were moving briskly in the first quarter, slowed a bit in the next two periods, and ground to a virtual halt in the fourth. With 12 minutes left, the Thunder led the Hornets by nine; Charlotte wasted no time whittling that lead down to two, and then to one with twenty seconds left. The big question then became “What will Kemba Walker do?” Turned out to be nothing; Marvin Williams took a 3-point shot, missed it, and Russell Westbrook grabbed the ball. He was of course fouled; he buried both the subsequent free throws, and it was once again a three-point game. Charlotte had eleven seconds to do something about it; Walker (25 points) had a good look for a trey, and didn’t get it. Westbrook, of course fouled, buried two more free throws, and that was that: Oklahoma City 109, Charlotte 104, and the Bees are swept.
One of the Hornets’ chief weapons is the long ball, but it wasn’t falling for them tonight; they made only six of 31. (The Thunder were a little better, at 11-33.) Otherwise, Charlotte shot tolerably well, just under 46 percent, and six Hornets hit double figured, including four starters. The reserve Hornets turned out to be way more efficient than the OKC bench, 32-13; Thunder two-way forward Deonte Burton got 11 of those 13. But the temporary Thunder starting lineup — Dennis Schröder was inserted at shooting guard — all broke into double digits, led by Westbrook with 30 and Schröder with 23. Rebounds were dead even, at 46.
The Nuggets will be coming in from Denver tomorrow, followed by a break until Wednesday, with the arrival of the Cavaliers. It’s not often you see a back-to-back with two home games, but there it is. OKC has so far gone 3-0 on the second night of a back-to-back, but sensibly, they profess to be properly worried, and Denver is only about a rung behind in the standings and can make life very difficult if things go their way.