Oklahoma City (21-14) at Charlotte (19-16)
When: Wednesday, January 4th 2017
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: FSN Oklahoma, FSN Southeast
The Charlotte Hornets look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night in Charlotte. The Hornets had won five of six but ran into the hot shooting Cleveland Cavaliers and a one-man show from the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler over the weekend and saw their lead in the Southeast Division slip to a half a game over Atlanta. Kemba Walker averaged 35.5 points on 26-of-41 shooting, including 9-of-16 from beyond the arc, in those two losses. Walker added a season-high 11 rebounds on Monday but could not stop Jimmy Butler (52 points) in a 118-111 loss to the Bulls, after which coach Steve Clifford called his defense “soft.” The Hornets are 9th in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (44.6%) but allowed the Cavaliers to shoot 50.6% in Saturday’s loss before getting torched by Butler. Jeremy Lamb was the lone bright spot besides Walker, going 7-of-12 from the field in those two games and has scored in double figures in four of the last five. Charlotte embarks on a five-game road trip after Wednesday’s battle with the Thunder.
Oklahoma City’s season is squarely on Westbrook’s shoulders and so far, so good. At 21-14, the Thunder are just one game behind the Utah Jazz in the Northwest Division. Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (30.5 points) and is still averaging a triple-double (10.5 assists, 10.4 rebounds) but had a terrible shooting night while going 9-of-28 from the floor and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc in a 98-94 lost at Milwaukee on Monday. Westbrook is shooting 39.2% from the floor in losses and 45.2% in wins, making the opposing team aware of what they need to do. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter share minutes at the center position, which helps relieve some of the pressure Westbrook endures.. Adams went 9-of-11 from the floor on Monday but Kanter was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Kanter averaged 20.2 points on 60.3% shooting in the previous five games and is third on the team in scoring (13.4 points) behind Westbrook and shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Oklahoma City will fly to Houston for a date with the Rockets tomorrow night.
Despite the mediocre 19-16 record, I like this Charlotte team. They have six guys who score average double-figures in points and Walker is a true leader. They have won five of their last six at home and I think they get the job done tonight and hold Westbrook below his average.
Pick: Hornets -2.5