Teams don’t really win games when they shoot 37.8 percent for the night.
However, Oklahoma City did Thursday, and did it with defense. Or at least a spurt of good defense, when the went on a late 13-0 run and pulled out the 95-89 win against the Hornets Monday.
That the Thunder won this and won it this way is instructive. A month into the season — a month where the Hornets raced out to a fast start and the Thunder struggled — this game showed how things are more likely to shake out come April. It was a reminder why we all thought the Thunder could be so dangerous.
The game was not exactly what we expected. We tuned in because we all thought this would be the Chris Paul vs. Russell Westbrook show — and there were some pretty entertaining moments — but that was not what decided it. A late adjustment by Thunder coach Scott Brooks changed the course of this game.
The Hornets were up 81-75 with a little more than five minutes left when Brooks moved Kevin Durant over to defend David West. At that time West had 20 points and pretty much had his way against Jeff Green over the course of the game. West had been the Hornets go-to guy (and has been much of the season).
Durant changed that. He started guarding West pushed the forward out of his comfort zone, blocking shots and using his length to contest everything. Durant just out works him. West was struggling but the Hornets went to him five out of six trips down the floor anyway. He’s their guy. But they got nothing out of it. There was no room to operate. The Hornets did not score a basket from the six minute mark in the fourth quarter down to 34 seconds remaining, and that is largely because they went to West instead of CP3.
Meanwhile Westbrook was hitting a driving banked layup and a pull up three in the final two minutes. He rose to the moment.
The Hornets tried to make it a free throw game late, but doing that against Thunder — shooting better than 85 percent as a team from the line — is futile.
One final thought: There was a lot of talk Monday about the Heat and how they are not meshing, how they seem to be standing around on offense, how there is no chemistry. How leadership from their big stars is lacking. Kevin Durant did not have a good scoring night Monday, but Durant is busting it, figuring out how he can help on the defense, taking a side role if that is best for the team. That, gentlemen is the opposite of Miami right now.