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Friday, December 10, 2010

In which we talk about basketball and only basketball

Posted By on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 9:42 PM

The Thunders Russell Westbrook takes a shot agains the Hornets. Chris Paul was called for a foul despite replays showing he made no contact with Oklahomas guard.
  • Photograph by Jonathan Bachman
  • The Thunder's Russell Westbrook takes a shot agains the Hornets. Chris Paul was called for a foul despite replays showing he made no contact with Oklahoma's guard.

Set aside for a moment all the ridiculousness surrounding the Hornets this week. The bottom line for the Hornets (and for any franchise) is that winning cures all ails. Remember when the Hornets were 11-0? Nobody was talking about Chris Paul being traded or wondering why the sale to Gary Chouest was stalled. Now, with tonight's 97-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Hornets have dropped seven of their last ten games and now it doesn't seem like it could get worse.

Obviously, it could. Despite the heartbreaking nature of the loss, the Hornets played fairly well. They came out with fire in the first half and David West scored 24 points through three quarters. The difference in this game was minuscule (just check out the box score) and could have very well come down to missed free-throws. (New Orleans missed six in a row at one point and they lost by five. Do the math.)

Credit, though, to the Thunder's defense. They adjusted their defensive schemes (West had 0 points in the fourth quarter) and forced the Hornets into making mistakes. The Hornets, meanwhile, had no answer for Russell Westbrook (29 points, 10 assists) or Kevin Durant (25 points, 6 assists).

(As a side note: the officiating in this game was downright awful. Now complaining about NBA officiating is about as original as...well...nothing, but the refs had such a bad night that the crowd resorting to booing them on every call, good or bad. Something about mid-season NBA games makes officials whistle-crazy. It's uncanny.)

No matter how you slice it, though, this is a painful loss for the Hornets basketball-wise because it really could have gone either way. After all, the Thunder made as many free throws as New Orleans attempted and, despite his fourth quarter disappearing act, West had a season high in rebounds (13) and steals (4).

But the most frustrating part? The Hornets went toe-to-toe with possibly their most evenly-matched Western Conference rival, at a time that they desperately needed a win streak to rally support and get people's attention away from everything else, and the Hornets came up short.

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