In the midst of a three game losing streak, the Oklahoma City Thunder return home as -2pt road favorites, against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday afternoon. About a month ago, it was the Hornets who took the last meeting between the two teams, in a game that Carmelo Anthony said that the opposition physically outplayed OKC. With that recent home loss to Charlotte, the Thunder will be looking to fight back, hopefully enforcing their own physicality throughout the game.
by Brian Anderson – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
If the Thunder want to establish their dominance against the Hornets, they will have to find a way to make Dwight Howard uncomfortable in the post. In their recent meeting, Howard scored 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Steven Adams is a bruiser in the post, but it is Howard’s veteran savvy that causes issues for the New Zealander. It will surely take a team effort, but the Thunder does have the slight advantage of playing at home – where the team is 14-7 on the season.
The Thunder’s trouble with the Hornets are evident – going 0-3 over their last three match-ups.
The Hornets can take advantage of their opposition in so many different ways. Kemba Walker – their star player – can create for himself, and get the most out of his teammates with his all-star level court-awareness. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a defensive stopper who will surely get in the heads of the offense if they do not get rolling early. Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams are deep threats who demand attention at all times. They simply have a great array of talent and it can be overwhelming for teams who are not that familiar with them.
The Thunder’s recent struggles puts them in the position where they have to find a win before things get worse. Its tough to pinpoint why this team can’t seem to make the most out of their star-studded starting lineup. One glaring issue has been their spotty bench play. Their second unit has averaged just below 20 points per game during their most recent losing streak, while giving up nearly 35 points a game to the opposition’s bench. This is a recipe for disaster and teams around the league are well aware of the Thunder’s issues. If teams can find a way to keep one of OKC’s big-three in check, then they can find time to fight back, or increase their lead when the bench players are on the floor.
Oklahoma City has to have a sense of urgency coming into the game. Billy Donovan did give the team some extra rest, but it was followed by one of their most intense practice sessions of the year. This could be what they need at the moment, but it is only a short-term fix for a long-term issue. I do believe that the Thunder will do just enough to cover the -2 as favorites. They should be able to control the floor on both ends, bringing their home record to 15-7 on the season.