Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
When: 7 p.m. ET
How: Fox Sports Southeast, WFNZ 610 AM
Coming back from Toronto after a deflating loss, there's no time for the Hornets to hang their heads as Oklahoma City comes to town Saturday night. The Thunder have won six of seven, haven't played since beating Phoenix on New Years Eve, and sit in third in the Western Conference at 23-10. Russell Westbrook is a man on fire, putting up 36 points and 12 assists in the win against the Suns, and trash-talking all the way.
The Hornets, on the other hand, gave a game away in Toronto and fly home for a quick turnaround, battered and bruised. Charlotte was outscored 30-12 in the fourth quarter Friday night, and injuries to Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lin certainly didn't help the team's stamina as it limped to the final whistle. Nicolas Batum, who was questionable for Friday night's game, played 42 minutes, so asking him to shoulder the burden against OKC might be too much, and without Al Jefferson or MKG in the lineup either, the star power of Durant and company will be a ridiculous challenge. Where will the energy come from for this one? (I vote Cody Zeller.)
On the bright side, the Hornets are home, and the Hive should be buzzing for the holiday weekend matchup. Frank Kaminsky is shooting more (13 points in 27 minutes), and Kemba's still good, right? There's a chance? Yeah, there's a chance. Kemba will need to put the team on his back, and the young guys will need to play out of their minds, but there's a chance.
As we said in our preview before the Raptors game, these next few games are crucial. Will the team fall off the pace in a crowded Eastern Conference? Or will they make a push and win a few in January to stay in it? With no more home games for 11 days, the Hornets need to show the effort in this difficult matchup, or find themselves needing to win on the road to avoid stumbling out of the playoff hunt in January.