Thunder pound Bobcats in fourth quarter, win 99-81

CHARLOTTE NC - DECEMBER 21: Teammates Kevin Durant #35 and Nick Collison #4 of the Oklahoma Thunder try to stop Stephen Jackson #1 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 21 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Though the Bobcats lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 99-81, the game was as satisfying as any they've played over the past few weeks. Though key players did not play particularly well -- Tyrus Thomas and D.J. Augustin, primarily -- the minutes distribution was as close to ideal as could be, especially on the second half of a back to back.

The story everywhere else will lead with, "Kevin Durant scored 32 points," but the real story of this game was how the Cats hung in with a Western Conference playoff contender for 3+ quarters, especially since they recently endured multiple blowouts. That is to say, in a majority of games from here on out, the assumption is the Cats are going to be facing a more talented opponent, so I've started looking for signs of improvement, or, barring that, signs that management is looking ahead. We saw some of that tonight.

Game thread comment, lowlights, and highlights after the jump.

GAME THREAD COMMENT

HAWKEYESBABY -- Can't wait until Jeff Van Gundy makes [Tyrus Thomas]  a starter. Man, it's going to rule.

BAD

-- The fourth quarter was a disaster. Charlotte started the quarter up 69-68, and then got smoked in that final frame. Sure, it hurts that we were that close, but the point is that we were close.

-- It looked like Nazr Mohammed pulled his hamstring. Let's hope that doesn't keep him out for long, because as well as Kwame Brown has been playing, we don't want to rely on him or DeSagana Diop for big minutes. (What? You think Larry Brown would start Boris Diaw at center?)

-- Somehow, Tyrus Thomas played less than 20 minutes again, finishing shooting 2-9 for 5 points, and only pulling down 2 rebounds. Yikes.

GOOD

-- Derrick Brown was one of the poor saps trying to guard Durant, and he pretty much got torched every time I took special note of the matchup. But so does just about everyone else. Brown also shot only 5-10 from the field for 11 points, but he did play 33 minutes, grabbed 6 boards, and at times was the best offensive player on the floor for the Cats. This is progress. If we're going to find out who Brown is, he's going to have to play lots of games like this, with 20+ minutes, time after time.

-- Diaw has shifted in my estimation from "GET HIM OFF THE FLOOR" to "acceptable fourth or fifth man". Going into tonight's game, he was third on the team in eFG%, and tonight he "only" shot 5-11 for 13 points, but he also added 7 rebounds and 8 assists. It's all about expectations, folks.

-- Some minutes information was noted above. Specifically, no one exceeded 36 minutes. Sherron Collins got 14 minutes. D. Brown had 33. Gerald Henderson got 10 (should've gotten most of Matt Carroll's minutes). And Dominic McGuire ended with fewer than 2 minutes*.

*What does that mean? Does it prove that Larry Brown is pretty full of crap? Dude praised McGuire to high heaven day after day, then benched him when he did Dominic McGuire things in the minute and three-quarters he played. Or does it mean he was ordered to change his rotation?

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