Last time in Charlotte, it was seriously close, the Bobcats squeezing out a 103-97 win. Didn’t look like it was going to happen tonight: the Thunder got to a 14-point lead in the second quarter and were up 11 at the half. But the Cats weren’t going away quietly they actually took the lead briefly in the fourth quarter and stayed close all the way. With 48 seconds left, Nenad Krstić put up a jumper to put OKC up by five, 83-78; D. J. Augustin answered with a trey, and neither side could put up a basket. Kevin Durant sank a free throw, missed another, and the Cats failed to get a trey for the tie, the Thunder escaping with an 84-81 win.
You might look at that score and think “titanic defensive struggle,” and you might be right: Charlotte put up 87 shots and connected on only 29. Durant, who got most of his 20 points in the first half, spent the second half swatting away Bobcat shots, finishing with three steals and two blocks despite playing the last six minutes with five fouls. And much of this display of D was done without Thabo Sefolosha, who dislocated a finger early on; Kyle Weaver stepped in, blocked three shots and pulled off four steals. OKC recorded 50 rebounds, versus 39 for Charlotte, and while the Thunder were hopeless beyond the arc zilch until Durant swished one in the final frame they made 37 of 79 from the floor for a comparatively-respectable 46.8 percent.
Four Charlotte starters did make double figures, and Gerald Wallace had a double-double (10 points, 14 boards), but Augustin, who played 35 minutes off the bench (!), led the Cats with 20. Wallace did some serious damage to the Thunder, executing five steals and making some timely runs at the rim. Emeka Okafor, not so much: five points, albeit with nine rebounds.
All three of the Musketeers picked up double-doubles: Durant with 20 points and 10 boards, Jeff Green with 10 points and 11 boards, Russell Westbrook with 10 points and 11 assists. But the sharpshooter of the night was Krstić, who hit 9 of 12 for 19 points.
Never again will this many people (19,163) see a Thunder home game; after tonight, the Ford Center remodeling begins, and next season there will be 500-600 fewer seats. (I’m hoping the final figure is 18,625, which would put the Ford exactly one seat up on Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden.) Eighteen of 41 games, including this one, were sold out; for the year, the Thunder moved 97.7 percent of the available seats. It’s been a fun run, even if we did lose 26 of those 41. We won’t next year.
Now begins a three-game road trip to finish the season. The Bobcats are complaining that they got hit with a four-game road trip to finish the season, which surely sucks 33.3 percent more. Then again, they only hit 33.3 percent of their shots in this game.