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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Charlotte Hornets game preview, odds, and prediction

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Westbrook looks to inch closer to history, while Charlotte seeks to stay alive in the East’s playoff race

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

A 21-point collapse vs. San Antonio has the Oklahoma City Thunder seeking redemption today vs. a Charlotte Hornets group clinging to playoff hopes.

Additionally, as his Thunder jostles for enhanced post-season position, Russell Westbrook aims to re-write history.

With seven remaining contests, the 28-year-old needs just three triple-doubles to amend Oscar Roberson's 55-year record (41) for most in a single season.

While Westbrook bids to ease ever-closer to immortality, Oklahoma City will seek penance for an earlier-season 123-112 setback to Steve Clifford’s precarious bunch.

On that night, Charlotte’s quartet of Kemba Walker (20 pts, 9 ast), Nicolas Batum (28), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 pts, 11 rebs), and Frank Kaminsky (17, two-made 3PA) proved too much for Russell Westbrook and company to handle.

However, since Jan 4, Charlotte has regressed to tenth in the eastern conference, and now sits two games behind #8-seed Miami for playoff inclusion.

This afternoon, an underachieving Hornets iteration will again empty its coffers vs. a Thunder group that is struggling of late in its own right.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (43-32 #6 west) vs. CHARLOTTE HORNETS (35-41 #10 east)

  • Time: 3 PM ET
  • Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • TV: FSOK

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Mid-way through the third quarter, victory was all but assured for Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio. However, using trademark sophisticated poise, the Spurs withstood OKC’s best to prevail 100-95.

Over an unpredictable three-game stretch, Friday’s loss epitomized Oklahoma City’s recent plight.

Though Westbrook again triple-doubled —five consecutive— OKC’s execution vanished throughout the contest’s final 18 minutes.

During stretches characterized by lapses in two-way functionality, the Thunder is 3-3 in its previous six games.

Today, a win is much-needed to keep Oklahoma City upon an upward trajectory heading into post-season play.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Trendy in pre-season circles to win the Southeast Division, Charlotte is 15-25 since ending an 11-game losing streak vs. Oklahoma City.

Though, while winning three-of-four, All-Star Kemba Walker (23 ppg, 5 apg) is doing all he can to salvage his team’s hard-luck season.

Mired in a sizable scrum for a return playoff appearance, today’s contest borders on do-or-die status for the Hornets’ post-season chances.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS

The Oklahoma City Thunder list Taj Gibson (Ilness) as questionable. The Charlotte Hornets list Brian Roberts (Personal) as day-to-day.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

  • Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
  • Small Forward: Andre Roberson
  • Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis/Taj Gibson
  • Center: Steven Adams

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

  • Point Guard: Kemba Walker
  • Shooting Guard: Nicolas Batum
  • Small Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Power Forward: Marvin Williams
  • Center: Cody Zeller

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY

  • Effectively defend the Walker/Zeller pick-and-roll: Of late, OKC’s ineffective pNr defense serves as a notable component in the team’s overall struggles. Today, Steven Adams and Westbrook will need to communicate, while displaying proper footwork, against the mobile tandem of Walker and Zeller.
  • Maintain Focus: Lapses in focus have dogged OKC through a rollercoaster three-game run. This outing is as good as any to re-establish 48-minutes of sustainable resolve.
  • Defensive Matchups: Hiding Russ on MKG, while matching Oladipo against Walker and Roberson against Batum may prove to be OKC’s optimal defensive setting.
  • Use Charlotte’s Desperation To Force Mistakes: OKC has already clinched a post-season berth. Meanwhile, Charlotte is fighting to simply remain in the conversation. Billy Donovan should use this element to force his desperate opponent into additional errors.

ODDS

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: -5.5

Homestanding Oklahoma City is a decent favorite for this afternoon’s contest vs. Charlotte.

Today’s key matchup pits Steven Adams vs. Cody Zeller/Frank Kaminsky: Though an unconventional choice for key matchup, if Adams can limit the pNr game, OKC will have a much easier time stopping Kemba and Batum’s perimeter attack.

Oklahoma City trails the Hornets (13-24 road) 0-1 in the teams’ season series.

Russell Westbrook needs two triple-doubles to match Oscar Roberson’s (41) single-season mark. Westbrook (33 pts, 15 rebs, 8 ast) was held without triple-double Jan 4 vs. Charlotte.