|2013-2014 NBA Season|
|December 27th, 2013|
|The Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina|
|6:00 PM CST|
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, SportSouth|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), WFNZ 610 AM|
|Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Jeffery Taylor (Out), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Out), Brendan Haywood (Out)|
|Previous Matchups: None (Thunder Won Last Season's Series 2-0)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Kemba Walker|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Gerald Henderson|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Anthony Tolliver|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Josh McRoberts|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Al Jefferson|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|99.4 (3rd)||Pace||94.9 (24th)|
|106.7 (4th)||ORtg||96.4 (29th)|
|97.8 (2nd)||DRtg||98.2 (3rd)|
So yeah, Russell Westbrook is out until after the All-Star break.
I'll be honest in saying that I don't know a ton about the Charlotte Bobcats heading into this matchup. I do know that the team appears to be making a playoff push in the weak East, and that they love to play a defensive, grinding game. They only manage to break the 100 point barrier on select occasions, and those select occasions usually involve an offensive explosion from Kemba Walker.
Charlotte is certainly capable of contending with the best, as their one-point loss to a fully stacked Heat team should tell you. But they've also only beaten two Western teams this year, with one win coming against the Jazz and the other coming against the Iguodala-less Warriors. Generally, they'll slug it out with most talented teams, while games with less talented-teams can turn into high-scoring affairs.
One thing is for sure, though: This Bobcat team doesn't get blown out. Even on a good day, I wouldn't expect the Thunder to win this game by more than 15, so I wouldn't panic if this one boils down to the final minutes.
On the Thunder's side of things, Reggie Jackson's inclusion in the starting lineup will certainly slow down the offense, Serge Ibaka will be less effective, and Jeremy Lamb will have a lot more offensive responsibility on his shoulders from the bench. There's no doubt that this team isn't as good without Westbrook, but there's also no doubt that the surrounding players have improved since Westbrook originally went down last spring. We won't know exactly how good they are until a couple of weeks in, but tonight will be a nice indication.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 97, Charlotte Bobcats 94.
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