Game Preview and Analysis: Thunder @ Hornets

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Published: February 3, 2010

Matchup: Thunder(27-21) @ Hornets(26-22)

Off Efficiency: Thunder 103.3(19th), Hornets 104.8(14th)
Def Efficiency: Thunder 100.5(6th), Hornets 105.5(19th)

The Thunder have recovered from a three game losing streak with a three game winning streak, including a road win over tough Atlanta last night.  The Thunder, despite the phenomenal scoring expoits of Kevin Durant, do not win games with their offense, which is, frankly, inept when the ball leaves Durant’s hands.  Instead, they rely on their defense to keep them in games, but even their defense is a bit strange.  As I noted a few posts ago, the Thunder routinely give up really easy shots, yet still keep the opposing team from hitting them.  We’ll have to see how the Hornets handle that curve ball.

Tonight will also be quite a test for the Hornets rookies as they face Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook, two extremely long, athletic and capable defenders.  If they can come through with solid efforts, the Hornets interior of West and Okafor should be able to complete the win for the Hornets.

Injuries

Thunder: None
Hornets: Chris Paul, Out

Positional Analysis

PG: Russell Westbrook v Darren Collison
Advantage: Thunder
Westbrook may be one of the worst perimeter shooters in the league.  His efficiencies are kept respectable, however, by a determined assault on the basket that generates a good number of free throws for a point guard.  His best attribute is his athleticism and length, which allows him to cover a lot of ground quickly and keep opposing guards from easy drives into the paint.  One interesting thing of note is that in college Collison kept Westbrook from the starting point guard role at UCLA, mostly due to his playmaking talents.  The advantage at this position may come down to that as well.  If Collison can use his speed to beat Westbrook into the paint and create for his teammates, this position swings quickly in favor of the Hornets.

SG: Thabo Sefolosha v Marcus Thornton
Advantage: Hornets
Sefolosha has a history of making elite scoring guards work hard for their points.  Fortunately for the Hornets, Marcus Thornton is a willing hard worker, and Sefolosha contributes very little other than defense and some nice rebounding numbers for a guard.

SF: Kevin Durant v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Thunder
Kevin Durant is playing some of his best all-around basketball over the last five games.  Instead of his being just a one-dimensional scorer, he’s been grabbing 9.4 rebounds and handing out 3.5 assists to go with his 34 points a game.  His game is compared to Carmelo Anthony’s a lot – but I’d take Durant hands down every time over Carmelo – he’s got the killer instinct and determination that Carmelo lacks.  There is one bit of good news – the Hornets have shown they can slow Carmelo – typically limiting him to a lot of very inefficient shots.  We’ll see if they can do that to Durant.(I’m not holding my breath)  Peja, on the other hand, has looked more aggressive the past few games.  Which means he’ll probably produce half of what Durant does.  If we’re lucky.

PF: Jeff Green v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Jeff Green has had some big games against the Hornets – generally due to him getting hot on the perimeter and David West not being willing to chase him around out there.  That should continue tonight.  What else should continue tonight is Green’s complete inability to contain West on the block.  One of the lasting memories I have of previous Thunder-Hornets games is David West completely overpowering Green in the post for easy scores – forcing the Thunder to play Nick Collison more.(Collison does a great job on West)

C: Nenad Krstic v Emeka Okafor
Advantage: Hornets
Krstic can hurt you on the pick and pop and pick and roll, though he’s weak on the boards and not very good defensively.  Okafor will be able to outplay him, but I doubt his post game will work that well against the taller Krstic, making this far from a dominating advantage.

Bench
Advantage: Thunder
Nick Collison, Maynor, Harden, Ibaka versus  Songaila, Posey, Peterson, Julian Wright.
I’ve always liked Collison as the perfect backup big man – tough defense, good work on the boards, and a reasonably good mid-range jumpshot.  Songaila may have scoring talent on him, but Collison is going to dominate the glass on Songaila.(I think a Jack Russell Terrier could dominate Songaila on the boards) Ibaka too provides athletic scoring and rebounding, and they combine to make the OKC second unit very good on the interior.  Rookies Eric Maynor and James Harden provide the backcourt depth, and though they have both had big games, they have struggled so far.  Harden, in particular, hasn’t shown the shooting touch he was lauded for coming out of college.  Still both players are talented, and Julian, Posey(it pains to see him playing guard) and Peterson aren’t likely to be able to match them.

Enjoy the Game.

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