This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, SportsSouth
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WFNZ The Fan (610 AM)
Backstory: It's no secret: Charlotte is mightily improved since the Warriors trade. For those of you who don't know, Charlotte made a trade with Golden State earlier in the year. Golden State sent Steven Jackson and Acie Law, while Charlotte sent Vladimir Radmanovic and Raja Bell. As Stephen Jackson was a known malcontent and Acie Law is essentially worthless, most people thought this trade swayed in the favour of Golden State. But, they couldn't be more wrong. Stephen Jackson isn't really that much of a cancer on a team. Really, he only gets upset when his team loses, and loses, and loses. Which is what's been happening to the Warriors this year. Now, he's on a team that actually has a chance to win, and he's brought the defencive tenacity of Raja Bell along with some much needed offense for a largely defensive-oriented team. Meanwhile, the Warriors got Raja Bell, who is nice, but needed hand surgery. And they got Vladimir Radmanovic, who has done a great job shooting, but not a great job actually getting those shots in the basket. You thought Westbrook was bad? Well, just be glad that he doesn't get shooting numbers like 2-8 and 0-11 on a regular basis. And that's why the Warriors have won 1 game in December, to the Nets. Long story short, the Warriors got ripped, and the Bobcats are much better for it.
So then why, you ask, do the Bobcats have 11 wins and 16 losses? Well, partially because they had a bad start to the season, but mostly because they can't win a single game on the road. They've beaten teams like Denver and Cleveland at home, but they've lost to teams like New York and Indiana on the road. Where's the sense in that? And don't think it's because of some inherent flaw in their team, because they beat both New York and Indiana quite handily at home. Granted, they've had some injuries along the way, but nothing significant enough to warrant this kind of gap.
Regardless, they'll be playing without Tyson Chandler tonight. Gerald Wallace will play, Stephen Jackson will play injured, and, presumably, Flip Murray will play. Thus, despite the fact that the bobcats can't play worth a darn on the road, this matchup still needs to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City is coming off of a big win against the Suns, and a largely unexpected 14 and 14 record. Kevin Ollie is still out, but our team is pretty much complete. Most are expecting a win here, but people are still eager to see how well Eric Maynor is fitting in, and whether Nenad Krstic is really deserving of the starting Center spot.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
C: Nenad Krstic vs. Nazr Mohammed
Since Tyson Chandler is out, Nenad Krstic is left to face is much less intimidating competitor, Nazr Mohammed. He's been known for his high field goal percentages and solid rebounding over the years. Still, he's more suited to coming off the bench, and doesn't have the talent to be a good starter in the NBA. Given his low post tendencies and older age, I wouldn't expect him to give Krstic much trouble on the perimeter. Hopefully Krstic can make his shots. Yet, like every other center in the NBA, he's a better defender and rebounder than Krstic, so expect him to scratch up wins in those departments.
This matchup is actually pretty intriguing. Both players have pretty similar stats....in fact, they're just about the same player. They are the same player. Expect them to perform the same and do a synchronized dance before this game is through.
SF: Kevin Durant vs. Gerald Wallace
Here is yet another intriguing matchup. Gerald Wallace has been known to play aggressive defense and force quite a bit of steals. This could work well against KD, who at times has been turnover-prone this year. While I wouldn't expect KDs numbers to get hampered by much, I'd expect a lot more turnovers than usual. Also, I expect a huge game from Gerald Wallace. He has a high field goal percentage and a tendency to drive. Historically players liek that have done well against us, and I'd expect the same here.
SG: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Stephen Jackson
Stephen Jackson is everything you want in a shooting guard. A great scorer, a good rebounder, able to move the ball around, great defender, and he hits big shots when you need him to. Unfortunately, his defense will be wasted on Sefolosha, who is a non-factor on offense half of the time, and his tendency to shoot will land him into trouble against Sefolosha. I'd expect him to have a sub-par game, and for Sefolosha to be completely eliminated offensively.
Raymond Felton and Russell Westbrook are two of a kind statistically, kind of like Jeff Green and Boris Diaw. This game is betting to be a bit creepy. Nevertheless, Raymond Felton is a better defender and shooter than Westbrook, while Westbrook is a better rebounder. I'd expect Westbrook to have more points and rebounds, while Felton will have more assists and steals.
Battle of the Benches:
The bobcats have a really solid and deep bench. D.J. Augustine is the point guard in training, Flip Murray is the scorer, Stephen Graham is okay but not great, and DeSagana Diop is the guy who is a good defender, but totally helpless on offense. Wait, doesn't that remind you of Eric Maynor, the point guard in training, James Harden, the scorer, Nick Collison, okay but not great, and Etan Thomas, the guy who is a good defender, but totally helpless on offense? I can only come to one conclusion....these benches are equal.
Coaching and Intangibles:
Tyson Chandler is out, but I actually wouldn't expect that to be a huge problem, as he's been half-injured all year, and hasn't produced like he used to. Mohammed and Diop will do just fine in replacing his role. Nevertheless, the Bobcats still have the stigma of being "horrible on the road" to get over, and the Thunder are better rested.
We're facing ourselves. But, ourselves suck on the road, and we should be able to neutralize Stephen Jackson. Without his scoring, I don't there will be much of a chance for a Bobcat win.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 91, Charlotte 80
Defense is awesome!
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!