OKC Thunder vs. Hornets 12.27 replay – 3 keys to overtime victory

DECEMBER 27: Steven Adams #12 of the OKC Thunder handles the ball during a game against the Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
DECEMBER 27: Steven Adams #12 of the OKC Thunder handles the ball during a game against the Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

At 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. CT, Fox Sports is replaying the December 27th overtime win versus the Hornets. Here are three keys to why the OKC Thunder won.

With some teams opening their practice facilities this week and more joining on Monday (22 in all) it’s a positive sign the NBA is closer to a return. For now, the OKC Thunder aren’t among the clubs and haven’t indicated an intention to be among the clubs joining in on Monday but the team should be nearing that stage.

In the interim Fox Sports Oklahoma is keeping us satiated with encore presentations of the best  Thunder wins through 64 games this season. The next one on the itinerary will air this evening as the station replays the match from December 27th versus the young Charlotte Hornets. The contest will air at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

As you tune in to the game here’s three things to keep in mind that were key to the Thunder victory.

Young Hornets sting is strong:

December turned out to be a strong month for the Thunder as they waged havoc on opponents registering an 11-4 record in the month.

Entering the match, most thought this would be an easy victory with OKC heavy favorites. But, the young Charlotte Hornets crew was tougher than their record indicated. Sophomore’s Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges have shown palpable growth while rookie P.J. Washington fit into the pro level with ease. This trio will likely be the core Mitch Kupchak builds around moving forward.

It presents the GM with a bit of a quandary moving forward as Terry Rozier was acquired via the sign and trade that sent Kemba Walker to the Celtics. ‘Scary Terry’ was expected to take on a leadership role and become the primary scorer – playmaker but arguably with Graham’s rapid ascent, he becomes a trade chip.

Mind you, it’s not like teams will want to eat the hefty salary Rozier was given especially since he hasn’t demonstrated consistency as a starter (in spite of what Bleacher Report thought).

This was one of Rozier’s better scoring efforts (26 points) yet Graham still outshone him delivering a double-double of 15 points and 13 assists while coming up just short of the triple-double with nine rebounds.

Winning ugly:

This game was of the ugly variety and fell into the clutch time category as the teams went to overtime to decide the victor.

The Achilles heel of the Thunder for the majority of the season was highlighted in this match as they got off to a sloth-like start not scoring until the 7:35 mark of the first frame. Likewise, their penchant for pedestrian third quarters reared it’s ugly head as OKC defense lapsed and the Hornets cut the Thunder 10 point lead to two points during the frame.

While OKC got back on track in time to stave off a loss they still required overtime to seal the victory.

It was a match of ebbs and flows throughout and one where mistakes occurring like letting Graham go the distance of the court for an easy lay-in late to force overtime. The Hornets who pulled off late-game comebacks had the fresher legs as OKC was playing on consecutive nights.

This was also a match where the teams played to their identities as the young Charlotte team made mistakes in overtime like Washington missing two free throws and his court mates failing to close out to grab the board. Conversely, the Clutch Time Killers also played to their identity and calmly handled that segment of the game as they have all season.

In the end, it didn’t matter how ugly the game was only that the ‘W’ went to the Thunder

The trio of Thunder guards and Adams set the tone:

Although it took an eternity to get on the scoreboard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander broke the seal and registered one of his better complete-game efforts of the season. SGA led the OKC Thunder in scoring with 27 points with his aggressiveness earning him eight free throws.

His defense, particularly late factored large, with his steals coming in overtime. As we noted on the night of the game in our grades the perfect example of his two-way effort occurred between 10:05 and  9:45 of the second quarter. He forces Graham to cough up the ball and the ensuing Thunder offensive play featured the sweet scoop shot in the Tweet below.

Without Danilo Gallinari in the lineup and neither Terrance Ferguson or Darius Bazley scoring was at a premium. Although Paul didn’t look tired necessarily his legs gave away the fact he was tired. He still managed to score 16 points and his quarterbacking was evident throughout the match especially in clutch time.

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Dennis Schroder was stellar keeping the OKC Thunder in the fight with his offense. Watch for him in the third quarter when he scores on six consecutive shots while the Hornets are threatening to blow past the tired Thunder.

Likewise, Steven Adams proved to be a problem for the Hornets. Although Bismack Biyombo created havoc in the paint producing a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds the Big Kiwi got the best of him. In fact, Cody Zeller fouled out, Biyombo collected five fouls and Washington had issues dealing with Adams size and savvy. The Big Kiwi also posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds but he added value everywhere with three assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Watch Adams late as he seems to be everywhere on the court. The big man was the only OKC Thunder starter who registered a positive differential. To that end, while the Thunder bench only had one double-digit scorer (Schroder) they outplayed the Hornets bench and kept OKC in the match.

Enjoy the replay fans and if you miss the initial airing at 7:00 p.m. catch the second showing at 10:00 p.m.

For those interested in our original game night grades click here and for the ESPN box score click here.

Next. How Clutch Time Kings altered Thunder identity in one season. dark