The Charlotte Hornets have been the NBA's best defensive-rebounding team last season and this one, too.
Just not Saturday night. Not even close Saturday night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and 59 total boards. That led to 20 second-chance points, which was by far the biggest reason the Thunder beat the Hornets 110-103 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Usually the Hornets' struggle this season is getting to 95 points. This was a flip-flop; they were so bad at blocking out Saturday that they catapulted the Thunder to 110.
"We score 103 points and you'd think we win the game," said center Al Jefferson, who led the Hornets in rebounds with 12.
"I swear sometimes the ball just bounced out to them; Some LONG rebounds. But looking back, seeing we gave up 20 points on the offensive glass...They're a good offensive team, but we avoid that and we win this game."
The Hornets have now lost four in a row, stretching back to a surprising fall to the Philadelphia 76ers before the All-Star break.
The Hornets played a terrific first half offensively, shooting 51 percent from the field, yet trailed at halftime 59-56. Point guard Mo Williams started in his debut as a Hornet and turned in a 24-point, 12-assist performance.
They trailed at halftime because 14 of the Thunder's second-chance points came in the first two quarters.
The loss dropped the Hornets to 22-31. They are now in a tie with the Brooklyn Nets for what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford is less concerned about the standings than what was at the root of Saturday's loss.
"If we're going to play like that, we're not going to win," Clifford said. "No physicality out there. We didn't rebound the ball.
"We've got to play a playoff style of basketball the rest of the way."
By that, Clifford meant it's more difficult to score easy transition baskets in the playoffs, so teams must become more reliant on tough defense and rebounding. Those happen to be Hornets strengths more often than not this season.
Just not Saturday. They got into a shootout against a team with far more firepower even with the Thunder missing superstar small forward Kevin Durant (sore foot).
Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook was more than sufficient, finishing the game with 33 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Clifford chose to guard the 6-foot-3 Westbrook mostly with 6-foot7 small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist, just back from a hamstring strain, played well at both ends. He finished with a season-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and added three steals.
But there were times when Westbrook simply blew past Kidd-Gilchrist off the dribble, creating layups or free throws or kick-outs to jump-shooters in the corners.
Clifford could live with that; as he said Friday, no player can shut down Westbrook all by himself.
Rather it was what happened off Thunder misses that did the Hornets in. Oklahoma City big men Enes Kanter and Mitch McGary had five offensive rebounds each.
"Our issue is (usually) offense," Clifford concluded. "But if I just play offensive players it won't matter. We're not going to be an offensive juggernaut."
Which means they must get back to being the best defensive-rebounding team in the NBA.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell