Russell Westbrook got the numbers. The Charlotte Hornets got the win.
Faced with how to defend most valuable player candidate Westbrook, the Hornets chose to guard the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard with small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Westbrook finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot 10-of-33 from the field in the Hornets’ 123-112 victory Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center.
The victory broke a two-game losing streak for the Hornets, who improved to 20-16. The Thunder dropped to 21-15.
Hornets shooting guard Nic Batum scored 28 points, getting to the foul line 15 times. Point guard Kemba Walker added 20.
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The Thunder got 22 points from reserve center Enes Kanter. Victor Oladipo and Steve Adams each scored 18 for Oklahoma City.
The Hornets finished with 49 free-throw attempts, to the Thunder’s 23.
Three who mattered
Westbrook: He plays with such a motor continuously, putting constant pressure on the opposing defense
Frank Kaminsky: Hornets reserve power forward recovered nicely from some recent struggles.
Batum: He kept earning trips to the foul line throughout this one.
▪ The Hornets got back shooting guard-small forward Marco Belinelli, who had missed the previous five games with a sprained left ankle.
▪ Hornets center Cody Zeller missed his second consecutive game while in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Coach Stave Clifford said Zeller passed the first of multiple tests to be cleared to play again.
▪ Entering this game, the Hornets had lost all four games this season when Zeller didn’t play. With him out, Roy Hibbert starts, backed up by Spencer Hawes.
▪ This was the last home game until Jan. 18, when the Hornets will play the Portland Trail Blazers at Spectrum Center. The Hornets will play five consecutive road games, including tough matchups with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics.
▪ Westbrook was charged with a first-quarter technical foul after a basketball he threw hit one of the three referees in the head.
▪ Kidd-Gilchrist guarded Westbrook most of this game. When Kidd-Gilchrist sat out the last 1 minute, 26 seconds of the first half with two fouls, Clifford inserted rookie Treveon Graham to guard Westbrook.
▪ In the first half, the Hornets took 20 free throws to the Thunders’ 11.
▪ Kaminsky had 17 points by halftime, making six of his first eight shots. He didn’t score in the second half.
B+ OFFENSE: The trips to the foul line kept the Hornets in this game on poor shooting nights for Walker and Marvin Williams
C DEFENSE: They gave up far too many fast-break points and second-chance points.
B COACHING: This game was big, with the Hornets playing the next five on the road.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell