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Hornets Blown Out by Thunder… »
Game On: Thunder @ Hornets…
Two nights after facing Harden and the Rockets, the Hornets welcome in the new look Thunder
After what turned into a surprisingly heartening loss to the Rockets, the Hornets return home to face the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, who sit at 6-3. They unsurprisingly boast one of the league’s most efficient offenses, scoring 104 points per 100 possessions, while the Hornets enter play allowing only 97.4 points per 100 possessions, good for 10th in the league.
What to watch for…
12 Minutes of Hell
Wednesday’s loss to the Rockets was, for three quarters, some of the finest basketball played by the Hornets this year, as they outscored Houston 78 to 61 in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th quarters combined. They even outscored the Rockets by 10 in the 3rd quarter! The curse is over! Well, not quite it seems; the demon was exorcised, but it still needed a new host to inhabit; enter the 2nd, where the Hornets were decimated 39 to 18, and for 12 minutes it seemed like James Harden was in the middle of a photo-shoot for posters and trading cards instead of an actual game where people are paid money to try and make him look bad. If the Hornets are to have any chance against the Thunder, they must maintain their focus and intensity for all 48 minutes.
The Thunder lead the league in turnover rate, coughing it up 17.13% of the time. With Eric Gordon, the team’s best half-court offensive player and shot creator, out with injury, and with potential play-maker Austin Rivers still adjusting to life in the NBA, the Hornets must find alternative ways to score, and capitalize on the Thunder’s propensity to give gifts to opposing teams; perhaps the most crucial offensive player for the Hornets this game will be Al Farouq Aminu, who is a nightmare in transition and thrives offensively on the break.
Blocks on Blocks on Blocks
This is a matchup of the two best shot-blockers in the NBA, per 40, who qualify with at least 25 minutes per game; Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis are averaging 4.4 and 4.0 blocks respectively. The gameplan for the Hornets should be obvious; chase Durant and Westbrook off the 3 point line and funnel them to Davis ad nauseum, and try to use Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith to draw Ibaka out of the paint. Davis and Ibaka will most likely be matched up the majority of the time, and I expect them to play one another to a standstill.
Having just been torched by James Harden on Wednesday, the Hornets face a player who has inhabited his old role with much aplomb; in his 30 mpg off the Thunder bench, Kevin Martin is posting an astounding TS% of 69.3, and a per of 20.84, some of the best marks of his career. Although not the play-maker that Harden is, Martin is the superior spot up shooter, and with any combination of Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka in the game at any given time, it will be up to Austin Rivers, Roger Mason Jr., and perhaps Darius Miller to defend him one on one. Defensively, he’s a sieve, and if there has ever been a chance for Austin Rivers to finally attack the basket with confidence, this game is it.
What are some of the keys you see for tonight’s game?