Banged up Thunder host Hornets
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s depth has helped carry them early in the season.
“We’re running out of it, though,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after a costly win over Golden State on Wednesday night where three more players were banged up.
Oklahoma City could have four players out and another — big man Nerlens Noel — who has five stitches in his face after taking a hit early in the win over the Warriors.
The worst of the injuries appears to be rookie Hamidou Diallo, who suffered a left leg injury late against the Warriors that required him to be carried off in a stretcher. After the game, Golden State team doctors ruled out a severe injury, and teammate Paul George said it wound up being an ankle sprain.
Earlier in that game, Terrance Ferguson left with a left ankle sprain of his own. Alex Abrines has missed three consecutive games with a viral illness, Andre Roberson has yet to play this season after a knee injury ended his season last year.
“When guys go down, we’re a family here and we have to have our brother’s back, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said.
One major reason the Thunder were able to beat Golden State was because Donovan used Westbrook and backup point guard Dennis Schroder together on the floor often, with Westbrook helping jumpstart Schroder’s offense. Coming off a season-low six-point performance in a loss at Sacramento, Schroder had a season-high 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, with Westbrook assisting on several of his buckets.
Oklahoma City comes into the game having won 11 of its last 13.
The Hornets have won five of eight since a home loss to the Thunder in early November. In that meeting, the Thunder won 111-107 as Westbrook and George combined to score 54 points.
An encouraging sign for Charlotte in their Wednesday-night win over Indiana was that it didn’t need a monster scoring performance from Kemba Walker, the NBA’s third-leading scorer.
Walker had 16 points — his lowest in a win this season — and a season-high 11 assists. Instead, Jeremy Lamb carried the load on offense, scoring 21 as the Hornets hit a season-high 18 3-pointers.
“We’ve got to manage his body, manage his minutes,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said of Walker. “That’s on me.”
Borrego said the Hornets needed to continue to find ways to take pressure off Walker.
“He generates so much for us,” Borrego said. “I think this is where we have to go as a team right now. The more teams want to put pressure on him, put two guys on the ball, you see what we can accomplish without Kemba having to go for big numbers.”
Kaminsky had played in just 26 minutes in the season’s first 16 games before playing in 22 against the Pacers and scoring 11 with three rebounds and a pair of assists.