Looking around the Western Conference, it is tough to find two teams with less in common than the Thunder and Hornets. Oklahoma City is perhaps the hottest team in the game right now, while New Orleans has lost 13 of its last 15 contests. Two of those Hornets' losses came against the Thunder in lopsided affairs. What can they learn from those defeats to carry into tonight's game?
Shooting is All that Matters
In the most recent matchup between these two teams, Oklahoma City had an effective field goal percentage of .551, a turnover percentage of 13.9 and a free throw-to-field goal attempted ratio of .165. Those numbers were all better than the ones posted by New Orleans, so it is hardly surprising that the Thunder enjoyed a 21 point victory.
However, in the first showdown, the Hornets won the turnover battle, beat the Thunder on the boards and had a better free throw-to-field goal percentage. And New Orleans still lost by 15. Why? Because the Thunder shot with an eFG (Effective Field Goal, which accounts for three-pointers being worth more than twos) percentage of .635. This has been the hallmark of Oklahoma City's run. They often lose the turnover battle and are not particularly stellar on the boards, but on a bad night in one of those categories, they can still shoot the lights out.
Not Bad on Defense Either
What chance then do the Hornets have of ending this eight game Thunder win streak? If they have to keep up in the shooting department, it will be pretty tough. In the first place, New Orleans has the second worst eFG percentage defense in the NBA. Therefore, they will likely have to shoot great themselves to keep pace. That is bad news for the team from the Big Easy. Not only has Oklahoma City posted great eFG percentages in both games against New Orleans, it has also forced the Hornets to shoot well below average in both contests. That should be no surprise as the Thunder defense has been stellar all year, ranking fifth best in eFG percentage allowed at .469.
In two of their last three games, the Thunder were dominated on the offensive boards. In two of their last three games, they had higher turnover percentages than their opponents. And they still won. Draining baskets at will and contesting shots has been an instant cure to all ills that Oklahoma City has experienced.