Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Hornets: 2011-2012 Game 18 Preview; Parallels

GameThread at 7, be there!

Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (14-3) at New Orleans Hornets (3-14)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena Seasoned by Zatarain's, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Cox Sports Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KMEZ 106.7 FM

Enemy Blog(s): At The Hive, Hornets 24/7

Previous Meeting(s): Jan 11th

Back in 2008, the Thunder were a team coached by the illustrious P.J. Carlesimo. He endured blowout after blowout in his first 13 games, eventually getting fired after he was destroyed by the Chris Paul led New Orleans Hornets at home. Over three years later, the situation has been reversed. The Thunder are now the hot team with the young new star, and their embarrassment of the Detroit Pistons on the very same floor got Flip Saunders fired. And guess what? Our next game is against those who got Carlesimo fired, the New Orleans Hornets. Of course, the 2012 Pistons are much different than the 2008 Thunder, and the 2008 Hornets weren't considered to be as good as the Thunder. But the parallels are interesting, nonetheless.

The situation we find ourselves in tonight is this: A well-rested team at the top of the West is going up against an ice cold team at the bottom of the West. The last time these two teams faced, the Thunder played evenly with the Hornets early on, but consistently increased their lead throughout the third and held it in the fourth. The Hornets played sound ball the entire time, but they just didn't have the talent to get point when they needed them the most.

Since then, the Hornets continued the losing streak, which sits at 8. It's not like they've been getting blown away, as they have no double-digit losses. The Hornets just haven't been able to put it together in the final minutes. In the middle of the streak, Trevor Ariza came back from injury, and it definitely helped out the Hornets' cause. But the last four games, aside from the Rockets matchup, have featured some really tough opponents. In essence, they're going to need Eric Gordon if they want to start winning any time soon.

But that's not to say today is a lost cause for them. Trevor Ariza will provide a defensive presence against Kevin Durant, who steamrolled Al-Farouq Aminu last time. Ariza also provides a bit more firepower from the perimeter, which the Hornets were lacking without Gordon.

Still, it's hard to see the Hornets willing this one. Jarrett Jack is their primary source of scoring, but he's not as quick or strong as Westbrook. Plus, he works with the ball in his hands, compounding the problem. Additionally, they don't have any firepower in the post, with Chris Kaman being a shadow of what he once was, Emaka Okafor functioning defensively, and Jason Smith being really average. The only way I can see the Hornets winning this one is if they seriously got it going from beyond the three point line and found a way to get Jack past Westbrook. Anything is possible, but tonight should be another solid win for the Thunder.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 98, New Orleans 90
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