Thunder can end Hornets stranglehold
Kevin Durant and Jeff Green have never beaten the Hornets. They’ve never had a better opportunity than tonight in New Orleans.
The Hornets have won 10 consecutive games in the series but won’t have All-Star point guard Chris Paul, sidelined at least a month, possibly longer with a knee injury.
Rookie Darren Collison, who played with Russell Westbrook at UCLA, has filled in nicely for Paul. Collison has averaged 16.5 points and 16.0 assists the past two games. Collison also played well when Paul was sidelined earlier this season with an ankle injury.
New Orleans’ problem all season has been a lack of depth which has taken an even bigger hit because of Paul’s injury and recent trades (Devin Brown, Hilton Armstrong and Bobby Brown) to help the Hornets get under the luxury threshold tax.
For the first time since the Sonics/Thunder drafted Durant and Green, the Thunder’s starting lineup is better than the Hornets’ five. Oklahoma City should have an even bigger advantage off the bench.
One of the most encouraging signs for the Thunder has been a 18-4 record against teams .500 or below.
New Orleans is 26-22. But with Paul’s injury the Hornets are expected to take a dramatic fall in the standings, suddenly a long shot to reach the playoffs.
Although Las Vegas oddsmakers have it basically listed as a toss-up, this is a game OKC should win.
With a win tonight, the Thunder has a legitimate chance at being no worse than 29-22 heading into the All-Star break, possibly be 30-21, riding a six-game winning streak.
A three-game road trip certainly isn’t a make-or-break deal. But facing two teams hampered by injuries, and the struggling Warriors, this is a golden opportunity for the Thunder to pick up some momentum before the break.
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