Game On: Hornets at Thunder

Published: November 29, 2010

Matchup: Hornets(12-4) @ Thunder(11-6)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 104.6(12th), Thunder 106.4(8th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 97.6(3rd), Thunder 105.4(18th)

Thanks to the amazing Dariusz Ejkiewicz for the Game Day Banner.

This is a bit of a role reversal for the Thunder this year.  Last year, they got by on exceptional defense and ordinary offense.  This season they have a good offense and a mediocre defense.  Their offense, however, doesn’t so much rely on shooting excellence but on the ability to draw free throws and knock them down.  NBA teams generally draw free throws on 31.7% of their shot attempts.  The Thunder draw them on 40% of theirs.  That is a huge advantage, and it essentially wipes out the fact the Thunder shoot less well than their opponents, turn the ball over more, and are out-rebounded on the offensive end.   It’s amazing what attacking the basket can do for you.

Defensively, the Thunder aren’t too different from last year:  They allow a huge number of shots right at the basket, allowing 26.3 shots at point blank range.  The league average is only 21.8.  Last year, they also allowed the 2nd most shots at the rim, but managed to defend them and force misses anyways.  The difference is this year the Thunder aren’t defending those shots well, giving up a higher than league average shooting percentage.

That, of course, means the Hornets will need to attack the basket, which is not what they do, being a largely jumpshooting team.  It’ll be interesting to see how that works out – which will win out, the inclination to shoot jumpers, or the wide open lanes to the basket?

Side Note: the trade earlier this year that sent them Peterson and Cole Aldrich to the Thunder for Pondexter and Brackins(who basically turned into Jason Smith) hasn’t panned out for them so far.  Aldrich has been sent to the D-League to gain experience, and Morris Peterson has played 7 minutes for them.  I’d rather have Pondexter and Smith.  You?


Hornets: None
Thunder: Krstic is struggling with back spasms.  He may play, and if he does, will replace Ibaka at center.

Positional Analysis

PG: Russell Westbrook v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
Among all the young point guards in the league like Rose and Well, it is Westbrook who is the most impressive.  He draws 9 free throws a game as he attacks from the perimeter, which is a huge number for any NBA player, much less a point guard.  This allows him to score at a highly efficient rate despite poor shooting ability.  Scoring, however, is not his best attribute any longer, as it had been in the past.  He has cut his turnovers while upping his assists, and now posts a respectable assist to turnover rate.  He rebounds well.  He can be a lock-down defender.  This should be a fantastic battle tonight, because it’s not a huge edge in favor of CP3.

SG: Thabo Sefolosha v Marco Belinelli
Advantage: Hornets
Thabo plays good defense, and finishes enough layups in transition to make him useful, while contributing to the boardwork.  Still, he’s a guy you can cheat off of regularly defensively and not be stung by it.  Marco may have trouble getting easy open shots, but he should still be more effective than Thabo.

SF: Kevin Durant v Trevor Ariza
Advantage: Thunder
Durant is having a poor shooting season so far.  It doesn’t matter.  He still draws lots of free throws and knocks them down, keeping his scoring at an efficient level.  He’s also been a bit one-dimensional, serving up few assists and rebounds this season, but he’s a threat to be worried about.  Ariza will have his hands full and might see long minutes if he can avoid foul trouble.  I cringe to think about who might be guarding Durant when/if Ariza has to take a break.  Pondexter?  Willie Green?  Yikes.

PF: Jeff Green v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Jeff Green is averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds a game, and is scoring at the most efficient rate of his career.  I’m still here to tell you he’s not helping the Thunder.  Every year, he posts the worst +/- for his team.  He does very little at an above average rate.  David West typically punishes him in the post – and Green responds by shooting lots from deep – something he’s not actually that good at.  Usually, the Thunder put Nick Collison in pretty quickly against West – which help them tremendously.

C: Serge Ibaka v Emeka Okafor
Advantage: Even
I hope this will be even.  Ibaka is all athleticism and energy.  Okafor is all power and angles.  Ibaka is undersized, but I don’t know if he’s undersized enough to make this matchup any easier for Okafor.  Their numbers are similar, but Okafor should have the advantage on the boards.  We’ll see.  If Krstic comes back – then I think Okafor has the advantage, but that makes the bench scary.

Nick Collison, DJ White, Eric Maynor, and James Harden
Jason Smith, Jarrett Jack, Willie Green, Marcus Thornton
Advantage: Thunder
Even with Ibaka in the starting lineup, this bench is pretty solid.  Harden, who can’t finish a shot at the rim, has re-discovered his shot from deep, Maynor is a low-mistake backup, and Nick Collison defends hard and does a good job on the boards.  DJ White is serviceable in small minutes.  If Ibaka joins this crew, we might see some second unit scoring runs if Willie Green(or Thornton?) isn’t on.

Enjoy the Game!  Talk it up!


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