Thunder-Hornets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 16, 2012
Lakers
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

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

‘Actor’ Todd Gurley wants to make ‘billions’

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

David Price donates $300K to build field for special needs kids

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

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

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