GAME PREVIEW


Paris Lawson



Home Stand Continues with the Hornets

Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT

Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma

Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network


Thunder Status

The Thunder continues its home stand with its second and final matchup against Charlotte this season. The first matchup served as the season-opener for OKC back in December. In that game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander cashed in a clutch, go-ahead jumper to help his team win by two points. A lot has changed for both teams since that exciting matchup back in the Queen City. For the Thunder, the squad has entered a tough stretch of the season as injuries take a toll on player availability and has now fallen in three straight games.

“You'd like to be at full strength, but it's something that every team goes through in different points of the season,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault following Monday’s game. “There's points in the season where things are going well and you've got to stay grounded in your process and keep your eye on the ball, even though you're having success. Then there's points in the season that you have to endure and you’ve got to kind of just battle and take your licks and taste your own blood a little bit.”

The Thunder has also welcomed new members to its roster in Justin Robinson and Jaylen Hoard. Hoard signed a two-way contract while Robinson signed a 10-day contract on Monday and the duo combined for 19 points in their debut game with the Thunder as they each logged over 20 minutes of game action.

“I just tried to be contagious do whatever it took. Bring energy at all times,” said Robinson. “I'm just being grateful for them and putting me in this opportunity to have again at the highest level.”

“It was fun. I didn't know if I was gonna play or not but I knew I had a chance because so many guys were out so when I got in the game it was just all fun,” said Hoard. “I was happy to be out there with my teammates and even though we didn't get a win it was just fun being out there for so long, being able to get minutes for the first time.”

Opponent Breakdown

The well-rested Hornets enter into Oklahoma City following a two-day break from games. Charlotte fell in its most recent matchup against Boston 116-86 in its first game without starting sharp-shooter Gordon Hayward who is expected to miss the next few weeks with a sprained foot. The Hornets have also been without its star rookie LaMelo Ball (15.9 ppg) who suffered a right wrist fracture and has missed the last eight games.

In Ball’s absence, the Hornets’ offense has waned from averaging 112.4 points per game to just 103.3 while also dropping in overall offensive rating. Charlotte has since relied upon its backcourt of Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham. Rozier leads Charlotte in scoring with 20 points per night while Graham chips in 11 and dishes out five assists.

Rozier also headlines the Hornets’ defensive attack. Overall, Charlotte ranks fifth in points off of turnovers as well as fast break points. Rozier snatches 1.3 steals each night which has led to an average of 3.4 fast break points per game putting him at 6th in the league.

Matchup Focus

One of the only constants for the Thunder’s second unit is change. However, with a different lineup almost each game, OKC’s bench has maintained a constant flow of contributions. In its last game against Detroit the second unit (which included the newest additions of Robinson and Hoard) poured in 41 points with two players in double figures and two with nine points.

Charlotte, who is coming off a game against Boston where 12 different players put points on the board, sits right behind the Thunder in bench points per game. The Thunder sits at 10th with 36.9 points per game while the Hornets rank 11th with 36.3. Since the All-Star Break, OKC and Charlotte rank sixth and seventh respectively in the same category.

Stat to Watch

Free Throw Attempts — The Thunder’s defense prides itself on discipline and not allowing its opponents easy trips to the foul line. So far this season, OKC is tied for third in opponent free throw attempts per game. Meanwhile, Charlotte is tied for fifth in the same category.

While neither team seems to allow many free throw attempts from its opponents, both teams have been generating a significant amount of their offense from there. Over the last 10 games, the Hornets and the Thunder are 8th and 9th in the league in free throw attempts per game. Keep an eye on the free throw line and which squad will be able to keep the other off the charity stripe.

Thunder Trend

For the last three seasons, the Thunder’s meetings with Charlotte have been notoriously neck and neck. In fact, while the Thunder has bested Charlotte in five consecutive contests, the last four matchups between the two teams have been decided by five points or fewer with an average game differential of 3.3 points.

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