It’s an interconference matchup on the hardwood down in Buzz City. The Oklahoma City Thunder is on the road as they make the trip to face the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night. Oklahoma City was scheduled to face Houston Wednesday night but that came was postponed due to the Rockets not having enough players to take the floor. Charlotte was defeated 121-114 on the road by the Cavaliers in their season-opening contest Wednesday night. The Thunder owns a 40-18 advantage in the all-time regular season series between the teams and have won the last four meetings. That includes a 104-102 overtime victory on the road in the lone meeting last season on December 27, 2019.
Oklahoma City Thunder Ready to Get Season Started
Oklahoma City was supposed to take the floor on Wednesday night only to have their game postponed as the Rockets had issues with COVID-19 that dropped them below the required eight-player minimum threshold. The Thunder had a busy offseason as they made plenty of moves to alter their rotation. Gone from last season’s team are Steven Adams, Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder, Terrence Ferguson and Abdel Nader. In their place are Al Horford, George Hill, Ty Jerome, Justin Jackson and Trevor Ariza, though there is speculation that he could be bought out. It seems to be a rebuilding plan in Oklahoma City: will they find a way to contend in a crowded Western Conference picture? The team moved on from Billy Donovan as head coach as Mark Daigneault takes over the reins this season.
The Thunder finished last season 21st in the league in scoring offense as they averaged 110.4 points per game. Oklahoma City was 23rd in rebounding with 42.9 boards a night while ranking 28th in assists by dishing out 21.7 dimes per game. The Thunder stood 7th in the league in scoring defense by allowing 108.4 points per contest. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the team with 19 points plus 5.9 rebounds per game last season. After him, there is a massive drop-off among returning Thunder players as Hamidou Diallo is next with 6.9 points per game. The Thunder is banking on Horford (11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, four assists), Ariza (eight points) and Hill (9.4 points, 3.1 assists) to be contributors on the offensive end of the floor. Oklahoma City was 8th in the league in field goal percentage as they hit 46.8 percent from the floor as a team last season. The Thunder was 27th in threes made per game as they drained 10.7 per contest while ranking 17th by hitting 35.5 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Charlotte Hornets Look to Even Record
Charlotte suffered a season-opening defeat as they were unable to beat Cleveland on the road Wednesday night. The Hornets now return home here looking to even their mark on the young season. Charlotte was within one after the opening quarter and trailed by four with 5:25 to play in the first half before things unraveled. The Hornets were outscored 21-4 in the rest of the first half to trail 65-44 at intermission. Charlotte never got closer than five the rest of the way and that came with only 10.3 seconds to play in the contest. The Hornets were badly outplayed for the majority of the game and that ended up costing them the contest.
In the game, Charlotte shot an even 50 percent from the field, including 16 of 44 from three-point range, but missed seven of their 15 free throw attempts. The Hornets allowed Cleveland to shoot 52.9 percent from the floor, including 14 of their 30 three-point attempts and saw the Cavaliers dominate the glass by a 50-32 margin. Terry Rozier paced the Hornets with 42 points in the game, draining 10 of his 16 three-point attempts. Gordon Hayward contributed 28 points plus seven assists in his team debut after coming over from Boston in a sign and trade. Bismack Biyombo chipped in 11 points off the bench while Devonte Graham contributed 10 in the loss. In his NBA debut, LaMelo Ball went zero for five from the floor, including zero of three from beyond the arc, finishing with no points, one rebound, three assists, two steals and three turnovers in 16 minutes of action. Cody Zeller suffered a broken hand and will miss four to six weeks after surgery.