The fans at Spectrum Center will be treated to a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets when they take their seats on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Charlotte Hornets
When: 7:00 PM ET, Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
|503||OKLAHOMA CITY||-2.5 (-110)||210 (-110)||120
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, FSN Southeast (Charlotte)
PREDICTION: Thunder 103, Hornets 101
The basketball world knows what Russell Westbrook has accomplished this season. The MVP front-runner has carried the Oklahoma City Thunder after the departure of Kevin Durant to Golden State, and he continues to record one triple-double after another.
About 1,100 miles to the east, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker is quietly putting together a solid season on offense for the Hornets, and he is making a strong case to be an Eastern Conference All-Star.
The two will go head-to-head on Wednesday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C., when the Hornets (19-16) host the Thunder (21-14) in what is expected to be a high-scoring affair.
The Thunder enter the game 6-4 in their past 10 games while the Hornets are 5-5.
In a 118-111 loss to Chicago on Monday, Walker led Charlotte with 34 points and 11 rebounds — his fifth double-double of the season. He has scored a combined 71 points over the past two games, shooting a sizzling 63.4 percent.
The Thunder also took it on the chin against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee and lost 98-94 in the first of three straight road games.
The Bucks made life difficult for Westbrook, who scored 30 points — the 30th time he’s reached that mark this season. He struggled from the field, making 9 of 28 field-goal attempts. He started off 6-for-11 but went 0-for-8 in the third quarter when the Bucks took their first lead.
Westbrook was clearly frustrated after the game, sitting in front of his locker, arms folded.
“I thought he had some good decent 3-point shots, I thought he had some good pull-up shots,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told the Daily Oklahoman. “Those are shots Russell practices every day. It’s shots he’s worked on. It’s shots that’s made him the player he is. A lot of his shots were shots he’s more than capable of making.”
Like every offensive star, Westbrook has a short memory and he should be emboldened by the fact that the Hornets allowed Chicago guard Jimmy Butler to score 52 points on Monday.
“Our defense is soft,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after the game. “We can’t just pick and choose when to play it.”
If they do, Westbrook is sure to take advantage. He’s been a triple-double machine this season, recording a league best 16 while leading the Thunder with 30.9 points per game.
Hornets guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist draws the assignment to try to stop, or at least slow down Westbrook.
Clifford has his own scoring machine.
In his sixth season, Walker has become the team leader and offensive force many predicted when he came out of Connecticut. On Monday, he sparked an 8-1 Charlotte run to start the second half against the Bulls. The Hornets built an eight-point lead and then a familiar disaster struck — the fourth quarter.
“It’s been our problem for the last couple of games and the last couple of weeks,” said forward Nicolas Batum, who leads the Hornets with 7.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. “We just stop scoring and stop making plays. It was another big loss for us.”
The Hornets will be without center Cody Zeller, who entered the league’s concussion protocol on Monday. The team said in a statement that Zeller was struck by an elbow in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland. There is no timetable for his return.
Zeller is averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.
The Hornets also will be without sixth man Marco Belinelli (11 ppg), who has missed several games with a sprained ankle.