Oklahoma City puts Charlotte away on its home court, 101-91
Raymond Felton still has his fans here.
The Thunder’s backup point guard won an NCAA title with North Carolina and started his NBA career with the Charlotte Bobcats, and there’s still some love for him in the stands and the Spectrum Center.
When they filed out on Saturday night, though, not everybody loved Raymond.
Oklahoma City snapped a three-game losing streak with a 10191 win against the Hornets, snapping a threegame losing streak with a lift from Felton’s eight points, four rebounds and five assists.
“It’s that will,” Felton said afterward. “Just tired of dropping these L’s. Wanted to get a win tonight. Especially, I wanted to get one here, back home.”
Felton had about 30 family members and
friends in the crowd, he said, and anyone pulling for his team looked for a while like they might leave disappointed. The Thunder raced out to a 12-point first-quarter lead but trailed 59-55 at the half and by as many as six in the third quarter.
But Felton and the Thunder bench — often, and often-fairly maligned this season — delivered a jolt that at the start of the fourth quarter that turned the game.
Oklahoma City trailed 76-73 entering the fourth, but opened on a 21-6 run to surge ahead 93-84 on Felton’s 16-foot jumper with 6:35 to play in the game.
During that stretch, Felton scored six points and assisted on 3-pointers from reserves Josh Huestis, Alex Abrines, Patrick Patterson and Jerami Grant.
“Just trying to get in the paint, man,” Felton said. “Make the defense commit. Those guys did a great job of getting open and knocking down shots.”
As the bench stormed in front, the Thunder’s starters celebrated on the sideline, energized by the play of their backups.
“I always got energy, but (they) definitely gave me some more energy,” said starting point guard Russell Westbrook, who had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on 10-for-27 shooting. “Much-needed for me tonight.”
The Thunder starters struggled to find a defensive rhythm in the first half.
The Hornets, playing for the second-straight night — and on an early 5 p.m. ET tip — started sluggish but got rolling in the second quarter. Kemba Walker got into the heart of the Thunder defense, and ball movement after his penetration found wide-open shooters.
In the second half, Charlotte wore down and the Thunder tightened up.
OKC held the Hornets to 32 points on 27.3 percent shooting after halftime.
That was in part due to the Hornets’ tired legs — “I think we just kind of ran out of juice, honestly,” forward Marvin Williams said — but it helped that Felton steered the second unit, and stepped on accelerator as he did.
On Friday, Billy Donovan said, he’d talked to Felton about creating more shots for his second-unit teammates, putting Patterson and and Grant in positions to score. Felton, he said, “did a great job orchestrating that group from the time he got off the floor to the time he came off.”
In his homecoming game, Felton had a little something left in the tank as the Hornets ran out of gas.
“We definitely wanted to keep going at them, pushing the pace at them,” Felton said. “They wanted to slow the ball down. They played last night. We wanted to keep that pace up and make sure that we could wear their legs down. I hope they was getting tired.”
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drives past Charlotte’s Marvin Williams (2) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the second half of a 101-91 win Saturday.
Thunder forward Paul George hangs from the rim after a dunk against the Hornets during the first half Saturday of a 101-91 win in Charlotte.