OKC Thunder (28-15, 12-9 road) at New Orleans Hornets (29-16, 18-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.0 (7th), Hornets – 105.0 (21st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 108.3 (19th), Hornets – 101.3 (3rd)
Pace: Thunder – 93.2 (12th), Hornets – 89.0 (28th)
View from the enemy: Hornets 24/7
You probably haven’t been paying attention because who really does to the Hornets, but they are playing some really excellent basketball lately. Everyone kind of forgot about them after they came back to earth after an 11-1 start, but New Orleans has gone 13-4 over their last 17 and the past two games against good teams (San Antonio and Atlanta), the Hornets have allowed a total of 131 points.
Think about that one for a second.
The Thunder topped the Hornets 97-92 last time the two teams played in New Orleans because of Chris Paul’s disappearance late, bad free throw shooting by the Hornets and pretty good offensive execution by OKC.
New Orleans coming in: The Hornets last played Saturday, whipping the Spurs. The Hornets have won eight straight.
As always, the prime matchup is Russell Westbrook against Chris Paul. Westbrook has gotten the best of CP3 late in the last two meetings, so I’m sure Paul is aiming to rectify that. Westbrook though, being the animal that he is, is probably relishing the challenge. I wouldn’t be shocked if at some point tonight the two get in a fist-fight. They go that hard at each other.
We know about Trevor Ariza’s defense and his ability to get a hand up on Kevin Durant’s shot. But Durant shoots over anyone, so KD will have his looks. The Hornets will probably shadow Durant a bit and try and make him put the ball on the floor. Ariza on the other end is streaky. He went 4-4 from 3 against the Spurs.
David West has his way normally against Jeff Green and Scott Brooks typically is pretty stubborn about the West matchup. However, Green did really nice work on West down the stretch in the last game. Serge Ibaka will be key inside on West and Emeka Okafor in limiting easy looks for the Hornets. Role players will be big too. Marco Belinelli can get hot from outside, Marcus Thornton can score in bunches and the Hornets also have Aaron Gray on the roster which doesn’t mean anything. I just wanted to point that out.
Another opportunity to widen that gap of former love for Chris Paul as he falls and flops his way all over the floor tonight. And a big opportunity for OKC to come back strong after the high of Saturday night. It’s going to take defense in this one. First to 100 definitely wins.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Road Team.