Thunder-Bobcats Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 08, 2013
The Oklahoma City Thunder's last game went down to the wire. There was far less drama the last time the Northwest Division leaders faced the Charlotte Bobcats. Oklahoma City goes for a fifth consecutive victory in this series on Friday night in Charlotte. Looking for a sixth victory in seven games since a season-worst 0-3 stretch, the Thunder (45-16) hung on to defeat the host New York Knicks 95-94 on Thursday. Oklahoma City moved within 2 1/2 games of idle San Antonio for the top spot in the Western Conference after Knicks guard J.R. Smith missed a turnaround jumper right before the final buzzer. "We've been hurt on those game-winners a couple of times this year and we didn't want that to happen again,'' said Kevin Durant, who scored 34 points to lift his league-high average to 28.7. "So we just had to lock in and get a stop.'' The Thunder, 4-3 in the second game of back-to-backs, might not face as much of a test in their stop in Charlotte, where the league-worst Bobcats (13-48) have lost 21 of 23. Charlotte's 114-69 loss in Oklahoma City on Nov. 26 was its worst in franchise history. All of the Thunder's starters were pulled less than five minutes into the third quarter of that contest after building a 64-24 halftime lead, the fifth-biggest in the league's shot clock era and the largest since Golden State set the record (47 points) against Sacramento on Nov. 2, 1991. Oklahoma City has won the last four in this series by an average of 26.8 points, and Charlotte has done little of late to show it's capable of stopping that trend Friday. The Bobcats have lost by an average of 22.0 points during their eight-game skid. They're scoring 86.4 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting during this stretch after scoring 25 second-half points in Wednesday's 99-78 loss to Brooklyn. "It felt like a darn lid was on the rim,'' said Gerald Henderson, whose sprained left foot sidelined him in the earlier loss to the Thunder. "You know you can't win in this league if you can't score.'' That being said, the Bobcats could be in for another rough two- to four-week stretch after learning that second-leading scorer Ramon Sessions will be out with a second degree MCL sprain in his left knee. The team said Thursday that he will not require surgery. A rare positive for Charlotte has been the play of rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has hit 16 of 24 shots while scoring 17 points in back-to-back games. "It's been fun to see him play that way," coach Mike Dunlap said. Kidd-Gilchrist may be hard-pressed to continue that production if he's matched up with Durant. The All-Star forward, who had a team-high 18 points in less than 27 minutes on Nov. 26, finished with 32 in Oklahoma City's last visit to Charlotte, a 99-81 victory on Dec. 21, 2010. The Bobcats had posted three consecutive victories with the Thunder franchise in town.
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