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 New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Cox Sports Television
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KMEZ 106.7-FM
While everyone loves having the Thunder here, even the most die hard Thunder fans have to admit that the Hornets had a certain jazzy, party quality about them that the Thunder will never have. And that quality is in full effect, as the Hornets are in the midst of an 8 game winning streak. Deja vu, you say? Yes, the Hornets also began the year with an 8 game win streak. And that streak ended at 8.
So, is their streak in danger of ending tonight? Unfortunately, signs are pointing to no right now. In the Hornets most recent back-to-back, they defeated Atlanta by 41 points and defeated the league-leading Spurs in a sound fashion. They come out of some close ones (a 1 point W against Memphis) and scored high (110-105 W over Houston) and low (85-81 W over Toronto). Simply put, when the Hornets are running on all cylinders, they can beat anybody, no matter their play style or talent level.
Why are they so good? Well, there's the obvious signs, like Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, and David West. But they don't make 8 game win streaks on their own. It's the surprise talent that their younger players have shown. Marcus Thornton has served as an excellent scorer off of the bench, while Marco Bellinelli has played the role of an excellent sharpshooter, Quincy Pondexter has been a versatile defender, and Jason Smith has found his way into being a serviceable backup center. There's also the excellent NBA journeymen that have found a home on this team, like Willie Green, D.J. Mbenga, and Jarrett Jack. All in all, this team has a slew of different types of players to throw into the game aside from their stars, and they can change the face of their team according to the opponent's play style, and how well a player is performing on any given night.
The key to beating this style is destroying the Hornets' offensive rhythm. This can be done by sending bad shooters to the line, or forcing the Hornets to shoot out on the perimeter. Giving them too many easy baskets ala Paul, West, and Ariza is just suicide. All in all, the Thunder need to try to stop or exploit one of the Hornets essential players. For the problem with having a vast, complicated machine is that if one cog falls out of place, the whole machine is at risk of falling apart.
Prediction: New Orleans 103, Oklahoma City 100