Thunder-Hornets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 16, 2012
With James Harden gone, the Oklahoma City Thunder are relying on their two remaining stars more than ever. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have each logged more than 42 minutes in back-to-back games heading into Friday night's road date with the New Orleans Hornets. The Oklahoma City All-Stars had to play big minutes in a come-from-behind win Monday at Detroit, but couldn't lead the Thunder (6-3) to another double-digit comeback in a 107-97 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night. Durant eclipsed the 30-point mark for the first time this season with 34 in 44 minutes against the Grizzlies. Westbrook added 17 and 13 assists in 42 1/2 minutes for his fourth double-double. Kevin Martin, who has filled Harden's old role, had a season-low seven points on just four shots. Overall, Durant and Westbrook are playing slightly more minutes than they did last season. Durant is near the top of the league at 39.4 minutes per game, while Westbrook is averaging a career-high 36.8. "Every game is important for us," coach Scott Brooks said. "That's how we always view our games. We have 82 big games a year. We have to give everything we have each game and not worry about saving anything for the next game." Nevertheless, Brooks' two stars might not need to carry as much of the load against a New Orleans team the Thunder have dominated in recent years. Oklahoma City has won eight of the last nine meetings with the Hornets (3-3), including three of the last four in New Orleans. The Thunder took all three from the Hornets in 2011-12 by an average of 9.3 points. While they're third in the NBA in points allowed (90.5 per game), the Hornets face a tough test against the only team in the league with two players in the top 10 in scoring. One of the keys for New Orleans, which is letting opponents get to the free-throw line at a lower rate than everyone but Minnesota (18.0 per game), will be keeping the Thunder off the stripe. Oklahoma City has three players (Durant, Westbrook, Martin) in the top eight in attempts, and it's shooting a league-best 84.3 percent from the line. "We're going to have to be on our game with the activity and discipline," coach Monty Williams said. Greivis Vasquez could make things tough on the Thunder if he's able to build on Wednesday's big performance. He finished with a career-high 24 points and nine assists in New Orleans' 100-96 loss at Houston. Vasquez, who ranks second in the Western Conference with 8.8 assists per game, is expected to play despite leaving Wednesday's game briefly in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. "He's coming around," Williams said. "He certainly offensively did a good job scoring and finding guys. I just love his toughness." Ryan Anderson has also found his groove, scoring 45 points on 19 of 35 shooting with seven 3-pointers in his last two games. While the Thunder are the league's fourth-best team from beyond the arc (39.6 percent), New Orleans is fourth-worst (29.8). Top overall pick Anthony Davis has eight blocks in two games since returning from a two-game absence due to a concussion. He'll have his hands full against Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, who leads the NBA with 3.7 blocks per game - 0.9 more than Davis.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Eddie Lacy defends Mike McCarthy for weight loss comments

Red Sox nearly had serious catcher emergency in loss to Tigers

Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson ineligible for season

Roger Federer will miss Olympics, U.S. Open with knee injury

Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye releases first statement following car crash

Report: Brock Osweiler could have made more money staying with Broncos

Andrew Luck: Feels `as good as I've ever felt` for training camp

Amar'e Stoudemire announces retirement after signing one-day contract with Knicks

Report: Gregory failed multiple drug tests since suspension

Olympian Abby Johnston: Worst thing about Olympic village is no Pokemon

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

Report: Paul Pierce to return to Clippers

Jimbo Fisher: You come to FSU to win national championships

Andre Johnson worked out for Tennessee Titans

Shattenkirk for Krejci trade rumor still floating around

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies link to C.T.E.

Michael Vick: Cam Newton can’t beat me in 40-yard dash

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

Odell Beckham Jr. says Giants will play in Super Bowl LI

Iowa researchers say they can optimize Monday Night Football ratings with scheduling

Terrelle Pryor can visit Ohio State as five-year ban comes to a close

Rudy Gay admits to having ‘no idea’ about what the Kings are doing

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker