New Orleans Hornets (12-4, 5-3 road) vs. OKC Thunder (11-6, 5-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.1 (8th), Hornets – 106.6 (15th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 109.2 (21st), Hornets – 101.9 (5th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.0 (14th), Hornets – 90.5 (24th)
View from the enemy: Hornets 24/7
Measuring bar game. That’s what this one is to me. Against the West, the Thunder’s just 5-4. Against some of the better teams (San Antonio, Dallas and Utah), OKC is only 1-3. So with the Hornets, who are surprisingly legit as one of the West’s best teams, the Thunder has a chance to measure themselves.
Especially since this game comes as a back-to-back, off a lackluster game in Houston where Kevin Durant had a poor night and the team wasn’t energized. It’s at home, somewhere OKC hasn’t played that excellent and it’s a game that the Thunder kind of sort of needs to win right now. For a lot of reasons that don’t directly include the Western Conference standings.
New Orleans coming in: The Hornets lost their first home game of the season, blowing a big lead to the Spurs. So of course, they’re going to be excited to play this one.
Another measuring bar is the individual matchup of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. Paul is obviously one of the game’s very best point guards and Westbrook is rising. But CP3 is also a terrific defender so Westbrook shouldn’t have things come that easy to him. This is a night where the Thunder might really have to rely on Kevin Durant. Kind of weird to say that, but that’s how it’s been this season.
KD will have Trevor Ariza on him, a long capable defender who can also get things going on the other end. So for Durant to break out and get things done, he’ll have to do it with a good defensive player on him. The Hornets have nice bench support in Marcus Thornton, a player always ready to score a quick 12 or 14 points. So not only is it key to control that type of swing, but for the Thunder bench to counter it.
David West absolutely kills OKC most of the time. He’s not big and doesn’t do it in the post, but he can shoot over Jeff Green with relative ease and just seems to eat up the Thunder. I’d expect Serge Ibaka to get a good amount of time on West, but with Emeka Okafor playing well, it kind of creates a weird matchup issue for OKC. Nick Collison could get more minutes against the Hornet front line to try and counter that production.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Russell, Kevin, Jeff, Serge, Thabo, James, Nick, D.J., Eric, et cetera et cetera.
If you still need tickets for tonight’s big showdown, be sure to head over to Totally Tickets to find a great deal.