A big night at the free throw line helped the Hornets beat the Thunder 123-112 Wednesday night.
The Hornets (20-16) shot a season-high 49 free throws compared to the Thunder’s 23. Oklahoma City took 16 more shots but Charlotte scored 21 more points at the line than OKC. 20 of the Hornets’ free throws came in the fourth quarter to help them outscore the Thunder by 12. The Hornets made more free throws (40) than they made shots (37). The win was Charlotte’s first in the past 11 games against OKC.
The game was tied with five minutes left until Charlotte went on a 13-3 run. After an Oladipo three-pointer with 3:59 remaining, the Thunder didn’t score again until 1:16 remaining on a pair of Russell Westbrook free throws.
Westbrook led the Thunder (21-15) with 33 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Yet Westbrook shot 10-of-31 from the field and had four turnovers. Enes Kanter scored 22 points off the bench and Victor Oladipo had 18. Kanter hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give the Thunder a 88-87 lead.
Steven Adams started 8-of-8 from the floor a night after starting 9-of-9. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes.
The Thunder couldn’t overcome the free throw disparity despite out-rebounding the Hornets 51-43, outscoring them in the paint 54-48 and winning the fast break margin 30-10.
“We weren’t able to get enough stops,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
The game was poorly officiated both ways and there were questionable calls throughout the night that affected the momentum of both teams on multiple occasions.
Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis combined for four points and five rebounds in 29 and 17 minutes, respectively. Combined with Jerami Grant who played 27 minutes and scored two points, the three players stalled the Thunder offense throughout the night. 14 turnovers helped stall any momentum OKC had to attempt a comeback.
The ball movement stopped for the Thunder in the fourth quarter. Westbrook only had two assists and iso-ball offense took over inside the final six minutes of the game. OKC was 3-of-10 from three in the fourth quarter.
Westbrook picked up a technical foul in the first quarter after he tossed the ball to official Tre Maddox and it hit Maddox in the head. Maddox turned as Westbrook tossed him the ball.
Thunder's Russell Westbrook drills referee in the head with the ball pic.twitter.com/57PygvLNHG
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) January 5, 2017
Westbrook was clearly upset after the incident and had to be taken back to the tunnel with coach Maurice Cheeks to calm down. The play was not intentional and the technical will likely be rescinded by the NBA. As it stands, it’s Westbrook’s 10th technical of the year.
“I felt bad for Russell in that situation,” Donovan said. “I feel bad for both parts; feel bad it even got to that place.”
After tonight, the Thunder are 1-14 all-time when Westbrook attempts 10 or more threes. Westbrook shot 2-of-12 from outside and is 7-of-35 since the Thunder beat the Celtics in Boston.
Westbrook closed the first half on a crazy basket where he sprinted the length of the court and split the Hornets’ defense for a layup to help OKC cut the deficit to 5.
Off a made basket. Good grief pic.twitter.com/m6xc9GYPH8
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) January 5, 2017
Up next, OKC travels to Houston to play the Rockets on Thursday.