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Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Hornets: 2011-2012 Game 12 Preview; The Hornets Are Finally No Longer Ours

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GameThread at 7, be there!

Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (9-2) at New Orleans Hornets (3-6)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana

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

The Hornets have an entirely new face after the off season departures of Chris Paul and David West. They're left with a lineup of good and somewhat good players, mixed together from old regimes. Their roster can go 11 deep without injuries, and it's hard determining exactly who should fit in where. In some senses, they're like the post Carmelo Denver Nuggets, with many old and new era pieces trying to fit in on a team without clear direction.

Eric Gordon appears to be the defacto leader, but he's out with a sore right knee. With him gone, surprisingly, the scoring leaders have been Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, two guys whom I'd never have expected to lead a team. The expected defensive stalwart of the Hornets, Trevor Ariza, is out with a groin injury. Some reports are saying he could be back in action tonight, but his status is still to be determined.

Still, this roster does have certain strengths. Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman are a deadly defensive and rebounding combination down low. They don't necessarily provide a lot of offense, but they can keep the paint locked down against a team that relies on inside scoring, like Denver. They can also shoot the three really well, with Jack, Bellinelli, and Jason Smith bringing the heat.

I expect this game to be a relatively easy victory for the Thunder nonetheless. Jack is a turnover machine, and will have a few mishaps that lead to Thunder fast breaks. Without Ariza, the Hornets have no real defensive answer for Kevin Durant. Should Ariza play, I'd say the game would be a bit closer, but still over by the final minute or so. The Hornets will probably cover the Thunder big men really well, but the Thunder's offense functioned relatively well without them against Memphis. As long as our stars are getting opportunities, this one should be in the bag.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 103, New Orleans 87