New Orleans Hornets (16-16, 3-12 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (19-15, 9-7 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.0 (19th), Hornets – 105.4 (21st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.6 (7th), Hornets – 108.2 (20th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.2 (19th), Hornets – 92.1 (20th)
View from the enemy: Hornets 24/7
We’re almost four years removed from the Hornets being in Oklahoma City. And even though we have a new team here that is actually all ours, I still get a little nostalgic when Chris Paul and the Hornets come back to town. While that’s the obvious hook, the more important thing is that the Hornets are one of the teams now chasing the Thunder for the eighth spot in the West. There will be many more important games after this that will determine such things, but winning these sort of games and having two up on the Jazz already could be what eventually separate you in the end.
This is also the start of a crucial four-game homestand with games against the Hornets, Pacers, Knicks and Spurs. Going anything less than 3-1 would be a disappointment and there is certainly a possibility to go 4-0 and fire up another long streak. But it all starts tonight with CP3, David West and the Hornets in town.
New Orleans coming in: The Hornets are playing their absolute best basketball of the year as they ride a three-game winning streak into the Ford Center. Those wins weren’t against nobodies either. They took down Miami, Houston and then Utah in Salt Lake, which is no easy task. It was also just NOLA’s third road win and first road victory in their last four tries. Devin Brown led the way with 30 against Utah, picking up the slack for Chris Paul who had just 12 points and nine assists.
It all starts with Chris Paul. Everything runs through him, comes from him and happens because of him. Much like in Chicago, I would imagine Russell Westbrook would start there, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see Thabo get ample minutes on Cp3.
If you love Kevin Durant as I do, then these are the type of games you live for. Peja Stojakovic is NOLA’s starting three and let’s just be nice and say he’s not much of a defender. Thing is, the Hornets have a quality defensive guy on the bench in James Posey, so it’s likely Peja doesn’t play a ton because of the need for Posey’s defense.
Inside, NOLA has an advantage. David West abused Jeff Green last year and it’s just not a good match for Green. However, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka should have the ability to defend West somewhat. The Hornets offense (as we know) is largely Chris Paul creating a shot or drive for David West, so this is a crucial matchup. Emeka Okafor is big and physical so again, Ibaka might see a lot of time in place of Nenad Krstic, unless of course Krstic’s jumper is on.
The Thunder have yet to defeat the Hornets. We all remember the backbreaker last year on the day of the Tyson Chandler trade where Kevin Durant scored his career-high 47, but Chris Paul broke out hearts with a gamewinner. None of that tonight please. I’ll just take a nice, tight victory and get ready for the next one.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Oklahoma City’s Team.