Hornets (19-22, 4-14 road) vs. Thunder (31-12, 20-5 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.2 (2nd), Hornets – 103.1 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.2 (8th), Hornets – 102.1 (14th)
Weapons. Great teams have them in bunches. The Golden State Warriors trot out a great starting five, but then add to that with Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli, and Shaun Livingston coming off the bench. Players that would likely start on every other team in the league. The San Antonio Spurs have a line-up that could potentially consist of five future Hall of Famers (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and potentially Aldridge and Leonard, if their upward trajectory continues). But they supplement those players with guys like Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and David West. Again, guys that would likely be getting more minutes on other teams. The same can be said about Cleveland, with Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Matthew Dellavedova being the supporting players.
And that’s where the train stops. The Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, and Raptors all have good players in the starting lineups, but lack the plethora of supporting talent that the top teams have. And that is quite indicative to their position on the NBA’s food chain. So then the question becomes: Where do the Oklahoma City Thunder fall?
The Thunder have arguably the best starting line-up in the league in terms of advanced metrics. Yes, I know: Andre Roberson. But what about their cupboard? Is it full enough to compete with the elite teams? The answer is yes, but there needs to be consistency. Last night you caught a glimpse of why its a luxury to have a player like Enes Kanter coming off the bench. He came in, scored 25 points in 25 minutes, and basically won the game for the Thunder.
But what about on the nights when he’s getting put through the pick and roll spin cycle and made to look like the worst defender in the NBA? Well, that’s when you lean on Cameron Payne, Dion Waiter, Anthony Morrow, or dare I say, Kyle Singler. When you have options, you don’t need everyone to bring their A game every night. What you do need is for someone to step up every night to supplement what Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka provide. We have the weapons…they just have to be consistent.Series History
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Hornets. The Thunder won the first meeting in blowout fashion, 109-90. In that game, six Thunder players were in double figures, with Durant leading the way with 29 points.The Opponent
The Hornets come into this game with a 19-22 record, having lost 9 of their last 11. There was a point this season when the Hornets were one of the few teams in the NBA to be top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Then the injuries started to happen. First it was Al Jefferson. Then it was Jeremy Lin. Then Nic Batum. Then Jeremy Lamb. Since then, it’s the Hornets’ defense that has bottomed out, sinking to its current level of 14th. Some of those players have started to make their way back into the lineup and the Hornets have won 2 of their last 5 games.
Kemba Walker leads the offense and scored a career high 52 points in their last game. He leads the team in scoring and steals. Batum continues to be one of the best two way wing players in the league. Lamb seems to have found a home in Charlotte, but is currently dealing with a sprained toe that has kept him out the last 3 games. Lin is one of the better back-up point guards in the league, but continues to be a sieve on the defensive side of the floor. They seem to have redundancy in their front court as Frank Kaminsky III, Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes, and Marvin Williams all play similar styles (perimeter-oriented, not that great in the post).3 Big Things
I don’t know if he is tired or just in a slump, but his shooting has been off for the past couple weeks. He’s masked that by having great assist numbers, but overall, there seems to be something off. It seems to be occurring mainly during the first half of games, and it may just be a concerted effort by Westbrook to get his teammates more involved early. Whatever it is, maybe a game against Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin is just what the doctor ordered to get his shot back in form.
Charlotte does a great job of controlling the defensive boards. They are second in the league in Defensive Rebound Percentage, grabbing 79.7% of the possible defensive boards available to them. One of the Thunder’s biggest strengths is their propensity to grab offensive rebounds. They are 1st in the league in that category, grabbing 29.9% of the offensive boards available to them. The winner of this battle will likely have an effect on the outcome of the game.
Even though the Hornets’ big men aren’t necessarily small, they do play more of a perimeter-oriented game. Pulling Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka away from the basket will clear the way for Walker and Lin to get into the lane and do their damage from there. I believe the Hornets game was the last time the Thunder tried the whole “Durant at the 5” experiment. That’s likely a probability once again in this game.Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:
Kemba Walker – Walker has the Damian Lillard-like ability to get hot from the field and score points in bunches. With perimeter-oriented big men and room to operate in the paint, I could definitely see Walker putting up 25-30 against us.