Time to Silence the Thunder

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Published: March 7, 2009

First – I love your banners Dariusz . . . but that one hurts.

Matchup: Thunder(16-45) @ Hornets(38-22)

Off Efficiency: Thunder 100.7(28th), Hornets 107.1(8th)
Def Efficiency: Thunder 107.3(23rd), Hornets 103.6(10th)

Despite injuries to cornerstones Durant and Green, the Thunder have ripped off their first three-game winning streak of the year.  The past couple games have seen rookie Westbrook and mid-season additions Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha take over the scoring load, and with the Thunder’s ever-improving defense and running game, provide enough efficient scoring to overcome the Grizzlies, Wizards and Mavs.  No, that’s not exactly murderer’s row, but it means they can be dangerous, so the Hornets need to not take this game lightly.

The Hornets, of course, roll into the game on a six game winning streak.  The team seems to be clicking, and should be able to handle the Thunder by eight to ten points.  That is – if they get back on defense and limit those fast break opportunities.

Injuries:

Thunder: Durant is out.  Sefolosha and Green are day to day.  Thabo seems less likely to go, so I’ll have him out and Green in for the preview.
Hornets: Peja is out.  Peterson might play.

Positional Analysis

PG: Chris Paul v Russell Westbrook
Advantage: Hornets
Russell is a solid defensive player, with long arms and lots of speed.  What he isn’t is a skilled passer and scorer – though that will come with time I suspect.  To me, he’s a lot like Rajon Rondo, though I’m not convinced he’ll ever be the floor general Rondo is.  Still, there’s a lot to like about him.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to like about CP3.

SG: Kyle Weaver v Rasual Butler
Advantage: Hornets
I like Kyle Weaver a lot.  He’s pretty efficient, pretty atheletic, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and I think he’ll turn into one of those solid marginal starting guards that dot the league.  Right now, however, he’s still a rookie – and the Phoenix is in full flight and should easily leave him smoking.

SF: Jeff Green v Julian Wright
Advantage: Thunder
Jeff Green is a nice player.  He scores fairly efficiently, rebounds well for a small forward(though part of that is he plays PF a lot) and is an okay defender.  I don’t see him, however, as a second scorer on a good team.  He’s really more of a Shane Battier/Rick Fox sort of player.  A guy capable of giving a good team 10-13 points a game and do a lot of things right, and not much wrong.  I give him the edge over our mistake-prone Giraffe Calf, though I think Julian has a higher ceiling if he ever develops his confidence.

PF: Nick Collison v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Collison will bang, knock down a few mid-range shots, foul, and get some tough rebounds.  David West will become irritated by him at some point.  Despite all that, West should be able to score efficiently.

C: Nenad Krstic v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Krstic has been on a roll the past few games, shooting better than 50% while scoring about 18 points per game.His rebounding numbers are still pretty small, and his offense is mostly slow hooks or mid-range jumpshots, but he can be effective if not challenged.  I think Nenad will get some easy looks as Tyson has to help on Westbrook and Weaver’s penetration – but Tyson should be able to get multiple easy alley-oops tonight as Krstic isn’t the most mobile guy around.  Oh yeah – I should probably mention the trade that didn’t go down.  OKC could have had Chandler, but they sent him back.  I expect him to want to send a message.  I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad – but I expect him to have a little extra energy tonight.

Bench
Advantage: Hornets
With Desmond Mason, Durant, and possibly Green and Sefolosha out with injuries, the Thunder bench is reduced to Robert Swift, Earl Watson, Damien Wilkins, and Malik Rose.  The only player in that group that should be in an NBA rotation is Earl Watson, and he’s been terrible this year, shooting 37% from the field.  The Hornets second unit shouldn’t have trouble holding and/or extending any lead the starters give them.

Enjoy the game.

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