Thunder Host Hornets Before Big Road Trip
By Randy Renner
Tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets is your last chance to see the Thunder in person for more than a week, with a four game road trip down to Dallas and then back east and up north looming.
Old friend Jeremy Lamb, who’s been outstanding off the bench for the Hornets this season, will be back in town but may not be able to play tonight. He’s missed the team’s last three games with a sprained big toe.
Lamb is having his best season in the NBA thanks to a featured role in Charlotte that has him averaging 11.2 points, on 47.0 percent shooting and pulling down 4.6 rebounds while playing 22 minutes a game.
He and backup point guard Jeremy Lin have become the top reserve scoring duo in the Eastern Conference averaging 22.2 points combined per game. Lamb has scored 10 or more points 24 times this season. He only reached double figures 11 times in all of the 2014-15 season with the Thunder.
While it will be nice to see J-Lamb the big attraction for the Hornets and the guy who could do the most damage to the Thunder is point guard Kemba Walker who’s coming off a career-high and franchise record 52 points in Monday night’s 124-119 double overtime win in Utah.
"I just tried to make the best plays possible," he said after the game. "When I had my shot, I tried to be aggressive, take them and make them."
He took 11 threes that night and hit six of them, he was also 14-for-15 at the free throw line so the Thunder will have to be careful guarding him whether he’s out on the perimeter or driving to the paint.
Walker has been one of the few bright spot for the Hornets lately who’ll being a nine-game road losing streak to The Peake, a place they’ve never been able to beat the Thunder.
The Hornets started the season strong but injuries to Lamb, Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have caused them to stumble. Jefferson and Kidd-Gilchrist are out tonight but Lamb has been upgraded to questionable so he might see some action. The Hornets are just 4-14 since last winning on the road in mid-December at Memphis. Their 19-22 record puts them in last place Southeast Division.
Meanwhile the Thunder are heading the other direction after starting the season at 7-6, OKC has now won 20 of the last 24 games and five straight with last night’s 110-104 win in the thin air at Denver.
That victory gave Oklahoma City a 6-2 record in the first game of back-to-back sets this season but the Thunder are just 3-4 so far in the second games.
Kevin Durant led all scorers last night with 30 points he also grabbed a dozen rebounds. Russell Westbrook, though failing to get a third straight triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists and five rebounds, can get a third straight triple-D at home tonight. The Thunder also got a huge game last night from backup center Enes Kanter, who dominated the paint at times, scoring 25 points and gathering in eight rebounds.
Those individual performances helped the Thunder overcome a tough shooting night in Denver. OKC made just six of a whopping 28 3-point attempts and the Thunder shot just 42.3 percent overall, their worst mark since losing to the Bulls on Christmas Day.
"We got great shots tonight," Durant said afterward. "Cameron (Payne) missed four wide-open 3s, Dion (Waiters) missed two or three, I missed a couple, so we got great looks tonight. We can live with those."
Charlotte has scored 107 or more in three of its last four after averaging 93.7 over six consecutive losses to begin January. That includes a 109-90 home setback to the Thunder on January 2nd in which Westbrook was held to 16 points on 4 of 15 shooting, but Durant had 29 and 11 rebounds to counter Walker's 32 points.
The win was the Thunder's 10th straight over the Hornets, and they haven't lost in seven home meetings since relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season. Charlotte last defeated the Thunder in March 2010 in North Carolina and recorded its most recent road win in the series in Seattle on March 28, 2008.
The Hornets have dropped their last five games in Oklahoma City by an average of 25.8 points, with each loss by at least 17.
Tonight’s game will honor military veterans and their families and will tipoff at 7:10. You can see it on Fox Sports Oklahoma. We’ll be tweeting live updates from The Peake beginning at about 4 o’clock. You can check those out and follow along on our Twitter feed page.
A video wrapup from the lockerroom and postgame blog will be posted about 90 minutes after the game.