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: KSBI-TV, Cox Sports Television
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Our old friends, the New Orleans Hornets are back in town. The memories are fading away with time, as all things do, but there are still some familiar faces to be see. Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, Devin Brown, and David West all still start for the team. Meanwhile, Hilton Armstrong still plays significant minutes on the bench. But still, these aren't your fathers Hornets. Many of the surrounding players have changed, and Byron Scott was fired earlier in the season. Ever since Jeff Bauer was moved down from the front office, the Hornets have slowly stabilized themselves, recently going on a 3 game tear against the Heat, Rockets, and Jazz. They're back at .500, they have no injuries to major players, and they're looking to become a force in the West again.
Meanwhile, the Thunder recently easily put away the Bulls in Chicago. They're also looking to be in the playoff hunt, and this game will be critical if both teams keep at their current pace. The hornets aren't in our division, but it's not hard to imagine us both being tied at the 8 seed, and this game being one of the determinants as to whether either of us reaches the playoffs.
If you were one of those who watched the Hornets while they were here, this is almost like a dream game. We never got any playoffs while the Hornets were in town, and the second they left, they became a contender in the West. They also beat the Thunder 4 times last season (including a considerably large thumping during the last game of the Carlesimo era). Now, the Thunder are finally on equal footing, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who is looking forward to a healthy dose of revenge against the Hornets tonight.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Emeka Okafor
Curiously enough, Emeka Okafor has been one of the larger disappointments for the Hornets. He does well enough defensively, but he's not nearly the scoring threat that Chandler used to be. Still, he should have no problem shutting down Nenad Krstic and grabbing oodles of rebounds.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. David West
David West is just as about as undersized as Jeff Green is, so I wouldn't expect a total shutout of Jeff Green. In fact, I'd expect great offensive games from both of them, as neither are great defenders.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Peja Stojakovic
Sadly, this isn't your fathers Peja Stojakovic, either. His business these days is bricking threes and letting opponents drive right past him. He can have hot nights on occasion, but sometimes he'll have a totally worthless game. Peja will put up normal numbers tonight, but expect a monster performance from Kevin Durant.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Devin Brown
Contrary to popular belief, Devin Brown is a really solid player. On a good night, he can explode for a large amount of points, which he has done a lot quite recently. He can score from all over the floor, and doesn't have any specific tendency, so expect Sefolosha to slow him, but not break him.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Chris Paul
To everybody who has gotten on the Westbrook bandwagon over the past few weeks: Here's his first true test. Can Westbrook stand up to the one guard Both have had average to good performances so far against each other, but Paul has always been on the high side. If Westbrook can actually beat out Paul tonight, I'd be a very happy man. Nevertheless, since New Orleans relies on less scorers these days, I don't think it's gonna happen. But if it does, then hells yeah!
Battle of the Benches:
New Orleans has a bench with high name recognition, with names like Morris Peterson, James Posey, Darius Songaila, and Darren Collison. Usually one of them turns out to be an X-Factor, while the others don't do too well. This is probably due to the fact that most of them are either really old or really young. We usually have two solid performances off of the bench, so I'll give our bench the slight edge.
Coaching and Intangibles:
Jeff Bauer has gotten the team moving again, but I don't know if it's due to great coaching or due to the players finally playing well. Regardless, both of us have pretty equal momentum.
If we can neutralize Paul, West, or Brown while avoiding a random X-Factor stepping in, we should be able to win relatively easily. But, that's the problem with beating the Hornets. They have too many darn players that all of a sudden can become the games leading scorer given the right situation. Regardless, they don't have any great defensive stopper to stop any of our scorers, so I'm fairly sure we can get our first win against the Hornets tonight.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 102, New Orleans 99
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!