With news breaking earlier today that Russell Westbrook had another knee surgery, the Thunder once again returned to the team we saw in the playoffs last season. The Bobcats had a better chance, but still couldn't overcome the Thunder and their star power in Kevin Durant, but they made it close and took Oklahoma City to the wire before falling by four points, 89-85.
The Bobcats just couldn't get ahead tonight. Any time they managed to find themselves in the lead, the Thunder would get themselves right back in front and then jump to a decent lead, sometimes double digits. The Bobcats always fought back. There was never a point they were out of the game, which made this a really fun game to watch.
The first half was a back-and-forth struggle by both teams to score. The Bobcats offense did a good job creating open shots and looked good, but they couldn't get them to fall. The defense forced the Thunder into a lot of jump shots, which is what they want to force their opponents to do. In the third quarter the Thunder increased their lead to 13 points. This is usually where teams cave in and the Thunder obliterate them. Not tonight, the Bobcats came storming right back thanks to the efforts of Al Jefferson (7-for-16 with 16 points and 11 rebounds), Kemba Walker (6-for-17 with 18 points and 7 assists), and more great defense.
Down just one point going into the 4th quarter, it looked like the Bobcats had a real chance. Then Kevin Durant did this.
GET IT!? CAUSE THEY'RE THE THUNDER AND THE (Bob)CATS!?
It was like Durant's hands were on fire in the fourth quarter. He scored 10 straight points for OKC at one point and once again, the Bobcats looked finished. Durant had taken over, any chance of daylight had dissipated. Again, the Bobcats came storming back. Tolliver hit a huge three to keep the Bobcats alive. Tolliver then stole the ball, gave it to the speedy Walker who hit a driving layup to bring the Bobcats within three. The foul game brought the Bobcats within 2 with a chance to win or tie the game.
Their final play was a McRoberts wide open three that missed. You can't complain too much about wide open looks but I think that McRoberts shooting in a spot he's 2-for-13 from all season isn't ideal. (Thanks to Matt Moore from CBS Sports for pointing out that stat on Twitter). It wasn't the worst shot in the world, I just think the Bobcats could have found a better one. However, had he made it, I probably wouldn't be talking about it like this.
Some other things to note
Gerald Henderson had a solid game himself shooting 6-for-12 with 14 points. Henderson spent a lot of time working with Anthony Tolliver in an effort to try and somehow contain Durant. It didn't really work but, hey, good effort. Tolliver actually was doing a good job keeping Durant in check -- he started the game 3-for-10 -- until Durant had enough of that and went about his usual work.
There was no Russell Westbrook for the Thunder tonight. As much as I want to say how huge it is for the Bobcats that they hung with the Thunder, that's a huge blow. But give credit where credit is due, the Bobcats pushed one of the best teams in the NBA right to the edge.
Kendrick Perkins is terrible. Forever and ever amen.
Cody Zeller wasn't as bad as the box score suggests. He did a lot of nice small things and took opponents off the dribble with his quickness from the elbow a little, but that said, going up against a physical and talented power forward in Serge Ibaka really messed him up.
That game was fun, and for a team that can't score efficiently, the Bobcats are involved in a lot of fun games. They did a lot of good this game. It's time to take those good things and put them towards future games.