Three takeaways from OKC’s 113-102 loss to Charlotte

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Asher Low
·3 min read
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The young OKC Thunder hung around against an injured Charlotte Hornets squad firmly in playoff contention, but a career night from Jalen McDaniels was the difference in a 113-102 Charlotte win.

This was a night to be excited about as a Thunder fan gearing towards the future, as international rookies Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon showed out early. Pokusevski set a Thunder franchise rookie record with 7 made threes, finishing with 25 points and 9 rebounds despite not playing the final 5:18 of regulation due to a minor hip injury per Oklahoman Sports Thunder beat writer Joe Mussatto:

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Oh, and about that early dunk attempt:

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Maledon put together a productive night offensively, matching his fellow rookie teammate with 25 points of his own.

Here are three takeaways from OKC’s loss that dropped the Thunder to 20-31:

It was a win for OKC's future

Apr 7, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) drives to the basket around Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (3) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Charlotte won 113-102. Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that 2020-2021 isn't about a playoff run for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but rather giving valuable minutes to cornerstones of the future. In a less longwinded description, it's about tanking. Two keys to the future plans in OKC were at their best tonight in Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski respectively. In addition to arguably the best missed dunk of the season, Pokusevski showed the confidence he has displayed all year as he knocked down 7 threes to set a rookie franchise record. Maledon looked in control and played at a pace he dictated against the Charlotte defense. With 25 points each, the teenagers looked like players who will be part of winning ways in years to come.

The Hornets needed and got unexpected offense from Jalen McDaniels

Apr 7, 2021; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski (17) shoots as Charlotte Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels (6) defends during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen McDaniels was the answer to Charlotte's injury issues on Wednesday night. Putting together a career night, the San Diego State product finished with 21 points to lead all scorers for the Hornets. Hitting corner threes, attacking the rim, and grabbing rebounds were all part of one of his best games as a pro. Missing Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, and Malik Monk meant the Hornets needed this kind of scoring punch from an unexpected source.

Early fourth quarter woes doomed the Thunder

Mar 21, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault, right, talks with referee Mitchell Ervin (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Houston. Mandatory Credit: Michael Wyke/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Down just 8 headed into the fourth quarter, a 7-0 Charlotte run doomed the Thunder. With Pokusevski on the bench, the Hornets opened up a 92-77 lead with just under ten minutes remaining that proved to be insurmountable. The Thunder never strung together enough stops to have a fighting chance after the initial Charlotte run.

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