CHARLOTTE, NC. — The Oklahoma City Thunder (3-4) won their third straight game and their first one on the road, prevailing over the Charlotte Hornets (4-5) 111-107. It took another big third quarter and strong final quarter.
To say the Thunder struggled shooting from the floor in the first half would be putting it lightly. The Thunder — who entered the night at or near the bottom in the league in field goal percentage and three point percentage — shot 30 percent from the floor and 2-for-17 from three.
After trailing 48-44 at the half, the Hornets opened the third quarter on a 16-3 run, 19-3 going back to the end of the second quarter. Paul George was bad from the field. Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schröder were having trouble running the offense. The deficit ballooned to as much as 19 in favor of the Hornets.
Then Alex Abrines had enough of all that.
The third-year Thunder player dropped a career high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting including 5-of-10 from three. He did most of his damage in the eight minutes he registered in the third quarter, where he scored 15 points.
“We just played hard,” Abrines said after the game. “We played hard on defense, moved the ball and hit open shots. Russ set me open with some open shots and I was able to knock them down.”
It was more than Abrines simply hitting shots. He continued his upward trend on defense by forcing turnovers and even showed little hesitation in putting the ball on the floor and hitting some layups.
“Yeah, did some really nice things, Alex,” Billy Donovan said afterwards. “I thought once we made a couple of shots, it really helped our team.”
This was another third quarter in which Oklahoma City came out with a lot of energy on defense. Instead of letting off the gas in the fourth quarter, the Thunder continued to build off their momentum, outscoring Charlotte 38-30.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Donovan said. “I told them that if we kept generating good shots, they will start to fall. I thought we defended the three really well and when we started hitting shots it started opening up a lot of things for us to close the game out.”
A Thunder win, made all the more amazing considering George (11 points) was 0-for-10 from three, 4-of-20 overall from the field. He continued his shooting funk tonight but didn’t let that affect him on the defensive end. He, along with Steven Adams (five points and 12 rebounds, seven offensive) made positive plays on defense and helped extend possessions.
With the team feeding off of the energy of the third quarter, Westbrook finished where Abrines left off.
Oklahoma City’s captain finished with 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. The highlight reel-inducing “shammgod” crossover of Cody Zeller that resulted in a layup to put the Thunder up six was the dagger.
It was the fifth time in franchise history that the Thunder came back from a 19-point or more deficit to win the game.
Oklahoma City will immediately turn around and play the Washington Wizards (1-6) tomorrow night in Washington D.C.