Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder (44-15) vs Charlotte Bobcats (27-31) preview

Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (44-15), Charlotte Bobcats (27-31)

Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (89) defeated Charlotte Bobcats (85).

Pre-game Notes:

The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to right the ship and get back on the winners list, snapping a four game skid since the All Star break. The much needed win over the Memphis Grizzlies renewed the Thunder’s face in themselves and their system as they got back to basics – starting with defensive efforts and a better first quarter.

Charlotte have been balling recently and Kemba Walker took home the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for his efforts. Alongside big Al Jefferson, the Bobcats are no longer a team to be taken for granted. They will be coming in to this one on the back of a narrow 10 point loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but will have taken away a number of positives from the defeat and had won their previous fours game prior.

The last time these two teams battled, it was a narrow win to the Thunder who had just lost Russell Westbrook. This time, Westbrook is back, KD is still in scintillating form and OKC will be wanting to get another win under the belt as they build toward the run to the playoffs. The Bobcats will be wanting to make a statement of their own as they try to move closer to a .500 record and ensure a playoff berth out East.

Key Matchups:

Russell Westbrook vs Kemba Walker

This is an exciting matchup at the point guard position. Westbrook has been working has way into some really good form since returning and with every game, we see less and less rust and more and more Russ. He will be looking to improve again this time and will relish the chance to go head to head with Walker. Kemba has been on a tear recently and will want to out-duel Westbrook. They key to this matchup will be the assist to turnover ratio and just who can score effectively and efficiently.

Serge Ibaka vs Al Jefferson

While the frontcourt will probably chop and change their coverage a little throughout the game, just how well Al Jefferson and Serge Ibaka can score and rebound for their side will make a huge impact on the final result. The Thunder really need a strong performance on the glass and on the defensive end from Ibaka, while the Bobcats run a lot of their inside game through the back-to-the-basket game of Jefferson.

Kevin Durant vs Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Tayshaun Prince was able to do a pretty good job on Durant the other night, limiting him to just 7 points in the entire first half. Problem was, in the second half KD caught fire and dropped an extra30 second half points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be asked to stop Durant and that will be his focus. You don’t get much out of MKG on the offensive end other than some second chance points and hustle baskets, so he will be 100% locked in on stopping KD. Last time these two teams met, Kidd-Gilchrist was out with a broken hand – this time he will be wanting a good show. They will switch and run Tolliver at Durant at times so it will be interesting to see if they can limit his effectiveness for an entire 48 minutes.

Prediction:

Now that the pressure is off a little and the Thunder have a win under their belt, they need to ensure that they bring the same effort and intensity that they did against the Memphis Grizzlies. They started the first term well which had been a big issue in their recent losses. Even with Perkins out, the Thunder defense stood up, largely thanks to Serge Ibaka, Steve Adams and Hasheem Thabeet. Stopping Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker is no easy task so they will want to make sure they lock it down, limit their turnovers and force some of their own leading to transition baskets. Thunder 109, Charlotte 92.

Tags: Charlotte Bobcats Oklahoma City Thunder

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