Hornets Gearing Up for Another Road Game in OKC

by Sam Perley
  • Charlotte Hornets (25-24) at Oklahoma City Thunder (20-30)
  • Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 8 PM EST (Chesapeake Energy Arena)
  • Bally Sports and WFNZ 610 AM or 102.5 FM
  • Last time out: Thunder won, 109-107 on Dec. 26, 2020 in Charlotte

Charlotte Looks to Jumpstart Offense Following Another Key Injury

After scoring a new season-low 86 points in Boston on Sunday evening, the Hornets had a rare, much-needed two-day break to dive into another offensive retooling following the injury to Gordon Hayward, who will now be out at least four weeks. Charlotte had just three players hit double figures against the Celtics and has now failed to crack 90 total points in two of its past three outings. The Hornets are currently down three of their five leading scorers on the season and while it’s certainly not an easy task, they absolutely need to get more offensive production from across the roster in order to keep pace in the Eastern Conference.

Oklahoma City Now Fully Embracing Developmental Route

The youth movement is full steam ahead in Oklahoma City following George Hill’s departure and the season-ending shutdown of another vet in Al Horford. Now, the likes of guard Théo Maledon (15.9 PPG on 34% shooting), center Aleksej Pokuševski (14.6 PPG and 3.1 APG), First-Team All-G League big man Moses Brown (12.6 PPG and 11.7 RPG) and forward Kenrich Williams (10.7 PPG on 50% shooting) have all posted solid results across the team’s last seven games. With a mountain of draft picks in the upcoming years, Oklahoma City’s main priority right now is figuring out which players will be part of the long rebuilding process.

Hornets Need to Take Advantage of Young Thunder Defense

If there’s something that might be able to get Charlotte’s offense going in the right direction, it’s Oklahoma City recently-trending-downward defense. Since March 24, the Thunder rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating (119.2), a development that’s been further compounded by the team also laying claim to the league’s worst offense (98.4) during this time frame. Injuries to star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort are partially to blame for the 1-6 stretch, but more often than not during a transitional youth movement, it takes some time for the defensive play to reach a competitive NBA standard.

Preview Quote

“We needed a little bit of a break – bodies and mentally, as well. I think this is more a mental grind right now than physical. Yesterday was good for all of us. We have not had a two-day break like this in a bit. I don’t know if we get another one. These are important and we had a very good practice just now. Guys are locked in. We got to look at some different lineups and our guys are in a good place.” – Hornets Head Coach James Borrego on Tuesday afternoon

Final Thoughts

Navigating the next few weeks without Hayward, LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk is going to be a challenge for the Hornets as they’ll look to continue reconfiguring their offensive approach with all three sidelined. Nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA, but on paper, tonight’s matchup against a youthful, still growing Thunder squad is one Charlotte absolutely needs to have with such little margin of error expected for most of April.

Additional Notes

G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right foot plantar fasciitis), F Darius Bazley (left shoulder contusion) and C Mike Muscala (right ankle sprain) were all out for Oklahoma City on Monday night. Additionally, G Luguentz Dort, C Isaiah Roby and F Josh Hall were all in concussion protocol and also out… Charlotte has dropped five straight head-to-head meetings with the Thunder (most recent win: Dec. 11, 2017 in Oklahoma City); the last four have been decided by an average of 3.3 points per game… This will be the Hornets’ first regular season road outing in Oklahoma City since Nov. 23, 2018 (last year’s meeting was canceled due to the pandemic).

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