This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, SportSouth
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WFNZ SportsRadio the Fan (610 AM)
Previous Meeting(s): None.
No rest for the weary!
After a harrowing experience against the always sharp Phoenix Suns, the Thunder take on the always-pesky Charlotte Bobcats, who handed us a critical loss towards the end of last season on the road, and an irrelevant loss in the pre-season. The last time we did, in fact, beat them was on December 26th of 2009, where the Thunder won 98 to 91.
Why do we struggle against the lowly Bobcats? Well, for one, they're a defensive equal for the Thunder. Each player on their roster is a defensive stalwart in their own right. And they are a different defensive team than the Thunder in that they rely a lot more on forcing the other team into bad shot selection, blocking shots, and controlling the pace of the game. The Thunder rely on pressure and trapping so that they can get out into transition, while having specific lock-down defensive players used for slowing down opposing team's scorers.
But, obviously, there's a talent disparity between the two teams, which is why you see the teams with records that are almost mirrored. And this year's Bobcats are struggling, to say the least. The bench is thin, forcing them to give minutes to guys like Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, and Shaun Livingston (Remember him?). This shows in most of their November matchups, where they had so many close calls with teams that it ceased to be funny and started to be just depressing. For a while, it looked like they were encountering bad luck, but well into December it is apparent that they need a deeper team and/or a more talented leading man then Stephen Jackson.
And that's why, hopefully, the Thunder will win tonight. The Bobcats have lost three in a row, including a 32 point loss to the Wizards last night without Gerald Wallace. Wallace will be out tonight as well, leaving the Bobcats with a 17 point scoring gap. Given how they coped with it last night and the fact that they're on the second game of a back-to-back, I'd say it's pretty unlikely the Bobcats will win this one. But after Sunday night's debacle, one can never be too weary, so I'm only predicting us winning by 9.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 99, Charlotte 90.