Hornets (3-14) at Thunder (14-3), 8:00 p.m. EST tip

Thunder (2-game winning streak)
104.9 Offensive Efficiency (5th)
98.2 Defensive Efficiency (12th)
+6.7 Differential (5th)
94.6 Pace (12th)

Hornets (8-game losing streak)
95.9 Offensive Efficiency (25th)
100.8 Defensive Efficiency (20th)
-4.9 Differential (24th)
90.6 Pace (last)

The Thunder have already beaten the New Orleans once this season, 95-75 in New Orleans on Jan. 11. Kevin Durant had 29 points and 10 rebounds in that game and Russell Westbrook 22 points. James Harden was the only other Thunder player in double-figures with 14 points. The Thunder returned home two nights ago to beat the Pistons and looked significantly more comfortable on their own floor than they were on the road the previous three games. The Hornets have the worst record in the West coming into this game and Oklahoma City is of course still stop the West standings. There aren’t a lot of reasons why the Thunder shouldn’t easily win another one tonight.

Thunder keys to the game

1. Get in the transition game

The Hornets are not comfortable in an up-tempo game and are actually last in the NBA in pace. The Thunder are the third most efficient team in the NBA when on the fastbreak and the Hornets are last in transition defense. Durant had 10 rebounds the first time these teams played and if he can have another big rebound night, he should look to take the ball up the court quickly himself. The Hornets have a lot of slow bigs on their roster (Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor and Jason Smith) so making them get back on defense quickly instead of crashing the glass is a must for the Thunder.

2. Defensive rebounding

The Thunder continue to not be the best team in the world when it comes to getting defensive rebounds. One are that the Hornets are decent in is rebounding. They are fifth in the NBA in rebounding and average 13 offensive rebounds per game. Like I mentioned before, they have a lot of big guys on their roster that are going to try and mix it up down low. Their best big man however is Carl Landry who has a 1.61 PPP on offensive rebounds this season as well as a 1.00 PPP in the post. He is only 6-foot-7 however and the Thunder have good shot blockers in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. A good defensive rebounding night for Oklahoma City will lead to a good running night as well. It starts on this end though.

3. Defending the pick-and-roll

The Hornets of course no longer have Chris Paul but his replacement Jarrett Jack is having one of the best years of his career. He is averaging 16.6 points and 7.4 assists per game this season and one of the better pick-and-roll point guards in the league. The Hornets are the sixth most efficient team in running the pick-and-roll in the NBA with Jack leading the way scoring 0.96 PPP. The Thunder have had their troubles this year defending the pick-and-roll but it really shouldn’t be a problem tonight. Westbrook has been locked in of late on both sides of the floor so expect no problems in this area for the Thunder.

Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 92-87.

Tags: James Harden Kendrick Perkins Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka

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