New Orleans Hornets (32-32, 11-21 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (38-24, 19-11 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.6 (17th), Hornets – 107.1 (13th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.1 (6th), Hornets – 109.0 (19th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.9 (14th), Hornets – 92.5 (16th)
View from the enemy: Hornets 24/7
The Hornets are here blah blah blah the past blah blah 2005 blah. All that is pretty much out of my system now. I don’t really give two poos about Chris Paul and David West anymore. They are the enemy and this is a big game. The Thunder can pretty much bury New Orleans from harming their playoff chances with a win tonight. Oklahoma City would own the tiebreaker over the Hornets and plus, it’s one more game up on them with one less game to go.
New Orleans coming in: The Hornets have lost four of five, but most recently won Monday night against Golden State at home. But on the road, NOLA is just 11-21. And in their last 10, they’re 4-6.
It’s no secret anymore that the NOLA offense is completely point guard controlled. Darren Collison is doing a fairly excellent job in filling in for Chris Paul, or about as good as you’d hope your rookie backup would do. He’s basically doing it by doing the same things. Taking his time, getting in the lane and finding a cutter or an open shooter. Basically it’s pass, pass, pass for Collison and it’s working well. He’s got guys he can lob to in Julian Wright and Emeka Okafor. He’s got shooters he can kick to in Peja and James Posey. And he’s got midrange guys like David West, Morris Peterson and Marcus Thornton. It’s a pretty well-oiled machine for the Hornets. At least offensively.
Russell Westbrook played extremely well against Collison the last meeting, but that was when Collison was just settling into his new spot. He’s playing much better now so this will be a good matchup. Thabo will move over and play Collison some, but with new X-Factor Marcus Thornton scoring the ball well, Thabo will have to give attention there as well. The thing about Collison is that while he can pile up assists, he can also catch the turnover bug. So with OKC’s hawking, pressure defense, I think this could be a good thing for the Thunder.
Peja can’t guard Kevin Durant, but Posey did a solid job at the Ford Center back in January. David West typically abuses Jeff Green, Okafor is a load inside for Nenad Krstic and even without Paul, the scorers get their chances for NOLA. But what hurts the Hornets is the lack of a really productive bench, which is something OKC has on them. A good night from Serge Ibaka – who will probably see a lot of time on Okafor, as he did in the first two meetings – solid minutes from Nick Collison and some offense from James Harden should do the trick.
(UPDATE: Peja is out tonight. Julian Wright will start in his steed.)
Now isn’t the time to start dropping home games, especially the important variety. The Hornets edged OKC last time in the Ford Center when the Thunder scored like four points in the fourth quarter. It was an ugly finish to a really exciting game. There can’t be any of that tonight. The Thunder hasn’t played great defense the last week or so, so now would be a good time to get back to that. Keeping pace in the West for seeding is important, but snuffing out any potential playoff spoilers is still the priority.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Hometown Thunder.