Kemba Walker
Thunder-Hornets Preview
Kemba Walker

Thunder-Hornets Preview

Published Jan. 2, 2016 12:11 a.m. ET

The Oklahoma City Thunder are rolling at full strength, though they haven't always needed to be in recent matchups with the Charlotte Hornets.

Health figures to be a factor when the injury-plagued Hornets limp home Saturday night attempting to halt the Thunder's three-game win streak.

After missing the playoffs last season while ravaged by a slew of injuries, most notably Kevin Durant's fractured right foot that limited the four-time scoring champion to 27 games, Oklahoma City (23-10) has returned to the NBA's upper echelon in part by largely avoiding them.

The same can't be said for Charlotte (17-15). Al Jefferson has missed 13 games due to a calf strain, a drug suspension and recent knee surgery that will sideline the veteran center past the All-Star break. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder surgery) has yet to play while Jeremy Lin (ankle) has missed the last two games and backup center Spencer Hawes (back) four straight.


Minus two of their top four scorers, the Hornets suffered a second consecutive loss and fifth in seven games with Friday's 104-94 setback at Toronto. They went 4 of 21 while outscored 30-12 in the fourth quarter.

"I think we took a lot of quick shots in the fourth quarter," forward Marvin Williams said. "Guys took shots that sometimes they make and unfortunately tonight we weren't able to make them."

Charlotte fell to 4-13 when failing to reach 100 points and could have trouble keeping up with the potent Thunder, the league's second-highest scoring team at 108.7 points per game. Oklahoma City has averaged 121.0 while shooting 53.4 percent in home victories over Denver, Milwaukee and Phoenix that followed a Christmas Day loss to Chicago.

Russell Westbrook has led the charge by averaging 31.0 points and 10.3 assists during the streak. The star point guard totaled 36 and 12 to help the Thunder hold off the determined Suns 110-106 on Thursday.

''It was a good night for him,'' said Durant, who added 23 points for his 19th straight game of 20 or more. ''He was just efficient. He had the ball in his hands and made good decisions. He took control of the game and made shots. That's what he does, he's a scorer. He's a guy that sets everybody up."

The Thunder have allowed 105 or more in four straight but have held Charlotte under 100 in eight of the last nine matchups, all Oklahoma City victories. The Hornets' last win in the series came at home on March 17, 2010.

Durant missed last season's two meetings but Westbrook stepped up in his absence, averaging 31.0 points. He had 33 with 10 assists in a 110-103 triumph at Charlotte on Feb. 21.

Jefferson and Lin's injuries have placed a greater burden on Kemba Walker, who followed up 38 points in Monday's 108-98 win over the Los Angeles Lakers with 29 in Wednesday's 122-117 home loss to the red-hot Clippers. He was held to two in the fourth quarter and 18 overall by the Raptors, however, finishing 7 of 21 from the field.

Walker also struggled in a 98-75 loss at Oklahoma City on Dec. 26, 2014, managing six points on 2-of-13 shooting. He missed the most recent meeting recovering from knee surgery.


Kemba Walker
Get more from Kemba Walker Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more