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2010-2011 Game 18 Preview: Oklahoma City vs. New Orleans; Which Team is More Legit?

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This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-5) vs. The Houston Rockets (4-11)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The New Myriad, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Net 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): None.

The Hornets are coming home!

Okay, so it seems like it's been an eternity since the Hornets last played in the Ford Center, and in NBA years, it has. Four seasons is a long time, and it shows on the Hornets roster, as fter the trade of Peja Stojakovic to Toronto, only two players remain on the Hornets roster from their tenure in Oklahoma City. Those players happen to be David West and Chris Paul, two of the most adored and talented men to come from that long lost team.

Asking whether the Hornets will receive any cheers is a bit of a silly question. But so is asking whether the Hornets will receive anything more than "I remember you" claps for West and Paul during their introduction and very small pockets of cheers is also a silly question. Two years ago, it was a bit of a harder question. The thunder were starting Earl Watson over Russell Westbrook, seriously considering whether to give John Petro minutes, and were sporting a pathetic 1-11 record. The Hornets were healthy and appeared to be heading for another deep playoff run. It wasn't a day of complete turncoats, but it would be fair to say that about 20% of the crowd were Hornets fans.

Below: Switching Fates, This Matchup, How the Game Will Go, Prediction!

But last year, both teams seemingly switched fates. The Thunder became the hot young team and challenged the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, and the Hornets suffered injuries and limped to finish far out of the playoffs. Most remaining Hornets sentiment dwindled.

So while there is no remaining question of fan support, this season's matchup is intriguing because both the Thunder and Hornets seem to be headed toward the top of the West. The Hornets had the NBA's best start with 8 straight wins, and have gone .500 since then. If the Hornets do end up keeping a pace of .500 for the rest of the year, they would finish with 49 wins, and that's usually enough for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Thunder have risen to and 11-6 record after a sloppy start, but seemingly ran into a roadblock last night when they lost to the Rockets last night.

How will the game go? There's never been a true matchup of the current incarnations of these two teams, so it's hard to say. Expect Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook to get into a scoring battle, while Green will have some serious problems with David West. All in all though, I think the Thunder have a deeper roster than the Hornets do, and that will ultimately lead to their victory.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 101, New Orleans 99