Charlotte Bobcats (11-16, 1-12 road) vs. OKC Thunder (14-14, 7-7 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.0 (18th), Bobcats – 99.2 (27th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.8 (10th), Bobcats – 100.1 (3rd)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (18th), Bobcats – 90.9 (26th)
View from the enemy: Queen City Hoops
I think we all know the fear here. The L-word. Letdown. Oklahoma City did what we all truly hoped for with the three-game road stretch – won a game. But while coming back at .500 is huge, it doesn’t mean anything if the team doesn’t capitilize on it these last four games of 2009. And that means starting tonight with a winnable home game against the Bobcats.
The more this team wins and the more competitive they play against the elite, the more important these should-sin games become. And honestly, Scott Brooks has done a good job of getting this team to play for most should-win games. Against sub-.500 teams, OKC is 9-2 and the two losses really aren’t THAT shameful – a roadie against the Kings (who are very good at Arco) and a home loss against the Clippers (who aren’t really that horrible). So with Charolotte sitting at 11-16, this is definitely a take care of business kind of game.
The Bobcats coming in have lost three of their last four, but won most recently at home against Detroit Tuesday night. For the most part, they beat bad teams, save wins against Denver, Cleveland and Atlanta. So the Cats are definitely capable of beating anyone. They may be 11-16, but they have some talent. But then again, they are 1-12 on the road and a team with aspirations of the playoffs shouldn’t lose to a team like that.
One defining matchup in this game: Kevin Durant versus Gerald Wallace. It really will come down to that. Obviously Durant is the better player, but Wallace is a very nice defender and an awesome rebounder (he’s leading the league!). Wallace is the Bobcats main scoring weapon too. Again, Durant is the better player, but that doesn’t mean Wallace can’t outplay him.
Thabo will likely guard Stephen Jackson who is a creator and distributor from his two-guard spot. Russell Westbrook has a favorable matchup against Ray Felton who while has had a nice year, isn’t a great defender. And inside, I’m anxious about Tyson Chandler’s “return” to OKC. The Thunder has a major matchup advantage I think with the combo of Krstic and Ibaka there. And Jeff Green on Boris Diaw should lean the Thunder’s way. Really, across the board, this looks like a good match for OKC.
Again, it’s about taking care of business and moving on to the next game. Getting to 14-14 was really big, but it doesn’t mean anything if you lose games you shouldn’t. The crowd will likely be sparse due to bad OKC weather, so early energy should be something to look for.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Christmas Thunder.