OKC played well for 48 minutes, shot the ball extremely well, played exceptionally hard but just simply fell short. But that's not to say we should ignore the reasons the Thunder fell short. Because they are pretty plain and obvious.
Free throw shooting and rebounding.
Tonight was just another game where the OKC didn't take care of the details. Though the Thunder shot a season-high 55 percent from the field, the group hit only 18-28 (64 percent) from the charity stripe. On top of that, Charlotte had multiple second chances, grabbing 11 offensive boards and scoring every, stinking time on them for 22 points. Those are the type of things completely within your power and the type of things you must do to win. Whenever you shoot 55 percent, you feel like you should win. But when you give away 10 potential points at the line and turn it over 17 times, you need to hit 60 percent. With the way OKC was shooting, you can't turn it 17 times because that's 17 more potential shots. Shame.
But there is one major difference in this team with Scott Brooks at the helm - no big holes to dig out of. Since Brooks took over, other than the Cleveland game, the biggest deficit OKC has faced after a quarter is the 54-43 one at halftime against Memphis - a game the Thunder eventually won. Finally, the team is playing consistently for four quarters.
But let's be positive. Because really, this is the first time this year these guys shot the ball extremely well. On top of the nice field goal percentage, OKC hit 7-11 from three. Kevin Durant was 9-12 from the field and 3-4 from downtown (24 points). Jeff Green was 7-8 from the field and 2-4 from three (18 points).
But I'll be up front about it - Russell Westbrook didn't play all that well. He had 10 on 2-9 shooting and dished five assists, but he had five turnovers and there were numerous plays in the paint where he didn't finish. One thing he really needs to think about more often is maybe not driving all the way to the cup, but pulling up for a little eight footer just outside of the paint. He did it twice tonight and that shot could really do him good. It's a shot Chris Paul has mastered - sometimes using a runner or a floater - and CP also makes passes out of it. Everybody could learn a lot from watching Paul, but Westbrook should really take out a notebook and pay attention.
I am encouraged with the way these guys have played under Coach Scotty. It's hard to ignore to consistency and just the overall chemistry. Two weeks ago, I didn't see it reasonable to win 20 games. But if these guys keep playing the way they are, 20 wins and possibly a few more will happen.
One day off to travel to Florida to meet again with The Beast. Over/Under - 7.5 blocks for Dwight Howard against the Thunder? Did OKC learn its lesson? Just play hard and consistent for 48 and I don't care if Howard sends 20 back where they came from.