With the last two games being must-win games, the Charlotte Hornets had a chance to get a few games back. However, poor play in the fourth quarter doomed them again as they lost to the Bulls and Lakers. They sit 13th in the Eastern Conference, leaving many wondering what direction the franchise should go in. Now, Charlotte goes back on the road to take on a talented Oklahoma City Thunder team that is struggling in it’s own rights.
Of course, Russell Westbrook leads the the charge for the Thunder. (See what I did there?) The reigning MVP winner continues to play with high energy at the point guard position. However, Westbrook is struggled to shoot from the field; hitting just 40 percent and under 31 percent from 3. In the end, he still is the biggest reason the Thunder are finding ways to win games.
Despite his struggles, Westbrook has a stronger supporting cast with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Like Westbrook, Anthony and George are also struggling to score with efficiency. Paul George has been dealing with a calf injury and his status is unknown for the game against the Hornets.
The Hornets continue to get good production from Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard, but not much beyond them. Nicolas Batum is struggling, as is the the second unit. The identity of the Hornets under Steve Clifford was supposed to be defense first. That hasn’t been the case this season. There are also struggles within the entire team to close games. The Thunder have players capable of closing games (i.e. Westbrook, Anthony.).
If the Hornets are to turn their season around, a good way to get it started is with a tough road win in a tough place to play. The Thunder have arguably the most hostile home environment in the NBA. It’ll be tough for the Hornets to win, but the way they can win is to control the glass and play better on defense. Dwight Howard has to win his matchup against Steven Adams, while Walker must play at the All-Star level he normally plays at.
Overall, this game is between two teams that are underachieving in different ways. The Hornets aren’t closing games on both ends of the floor and that has cost them dearly over the first few months of the season. Meanwhile, the Thunder are playing great defense but they haven’t gotten the offense glued together yet. The inconsistency is there when they beat the Warriors then lost their next few games. It should be a good matchup against two teams that desperately need wins fast.