Hornets (35-41, 13-24 road) vs. Thunder (43-32, 27-11 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 2:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.1 (16th), Hornets – 106.7 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.2 (10th), Hornets – 105.7 (13th)
When you look at triple-doubles, everyone focuses on the gaudy, round numbers. Ten points, ten rebounds, and ten assists (or more). But lost among all that triple-double madness is the consistency that is required to achieve that on a nightly basis. In the NBA, if you’re not consistent, you’re expendable. But most players are consistent at just one thing. Be that scoring, shooting, defending, rebounding, or play-making, most players only have enough skill to be consistent at one thing. And that is usually good enough to keep them in the league for a couple seasons.
But being great at multiple things consistently throughout a season (or career) can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. And Russell Westbrook has been great at multiple things consistently throughout the season. He’s leading the league in scoring at 31.8 points per game, 12th in rebounding at 10.6 (at 6’3″), 3rd in assists at 10.4, and 2nd in free throw attempts per game at 10.7.
One of the things that plagued Westbrook early on in his career was consistency. He’d have a great game and then follow that up with an inefficient, turnover-laden game. But, of late, the ‘Bad Russ’ games have been few and far between. And with that, Westbrook has turned into the player he is today.
Season Series Summary
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Hornets. The Hornets took the first meeting, 123-112, behind 28 points from Nic Batum and 25 points and 10 boards from the bench big man combo of Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes.
Three Big Things
1. Creating Turnovers
The Hornets turn the ball over the least in the NBA, at just 11.5 times per game. They try to play like the Grit and Grind Memphis Grizzlies, but don’t have the same talent level. They are the type of team that usually makes the safe play. While this makes them more predictable, it also lessens the probability of mistakes. The lack of turnovers allows them to be a better transition defending team, which allows them to control the pace. Creating turnovers will allow the Thunder to push the pace a bit and get the Hornets out of their comfort zone.
2. Shooting big men
The Hornets have a bevy of stretch bigs that allow them to space out their offense and give access to the paint to Kemba Walker. Kaminsky, Hawes, and Zeller all prefer to hang out on the perimeter while on offense. That means Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Taj Gibson will all be out of their comfort zone, with the paint being wide open. Expect Thunder head coach Billy Donovan to counter with a healthy dose of Jerami Grant.
3. Russell Westbrook
The Hornets are one of the two teams Westbrook has yet to triple-double against (the other being Chicago). With Westbrook needing 3 more triple-doubles in the final 7 games to break Oscar Robertson’s record of triple-doubles in a season, look for him to try and mark one more team of his ledger today.