Thunder, fresh off home loss, visit slumping Hornets

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The Oklahoma City Thunder tend to figure things out when there’s a glitch or two.

The Charlotte Hornets don’t seem quite as equipped to prevent slides.

That’s among the differences in the teams as they prepare to meet Friday night in Charlotte, N.C.

The Thunder are coming off a 110-97 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night, a contest that ended a five-game homestand. Oklahoma City had a four-game winning streak snapped in defeat.

Consistency has been perhaps the biggest problem for the Hornets, who had a three-game winning streak earlier this month. In five games since then, they’ve won just once.

This doesn’t set up as an easy stretch in terms of travel for the Thunder. They have a quick turnaround ahead of the game at Charlotte, and that’s followed by a Sunday game at Toronto.

Defense is something that can make a difference for the Thunder.

“(We’ve done) a much better job adjusting as the game goes on,” coach Billy Donovan said.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder in scoring at 19.1 points per game, and he had consecutive 32-point games last weekend against Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers respectively. The 6-foot-5 swingman could create a matchup challenge for the Hornets.

For Thunder guard Chris Paul, the Friday game is a return to his home state, where the nine-time All-Star has often played with passion. He posted a game highs with 23 points and 11 assists Thursday night.

However, Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder’s third-leading scorer at 18 points per game, isn’t on the trip for the weekend games. He has missed the past two games due to ankle soreness.

“The most important thing is we want him to get where he’s feeling better,” Donovan said, noting at this stage holding Gallinari back is mostly precautionary.

The Thunder had three days off before hitting this busier stretch of the schedule.

The Hornets have had nearly a week to sort things out.

The Hornets have lost three games in a row, including a 26-point blowout Sunday at Boston in their most recent game.

Charlotte has had inopportune shortcomings in rebounding. The Hornets are aware they aren’t naturally a physical team, so that’s something they concentrate on.

“That’s been an area of focus for us, and we’ve been better in that area recently,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

Team scoring leader Devonte’ Graham, a second-year guard who averages 19.3 points, went four consecutive games without being the high scorer. On the surface, that’s not a problem, but it coincided with the start of Charlotte’s latest slide.

Then he returned to the Hornets’ top scoring spot with 23 points during the Celtics’ romp on Sunday.

Still, Graham has been a key component for Charlotte.

“Devonte’s development has forced us to adjust, but it has been a good problem,” Borrego said. “We’ve found some light here, and we’re going to go forward with it. We found a guy who’s hungry.”

That aside, the Hornets don’t seem able to overcome situations when they aren’t shooting the ball well. Running the offense despite the difficulties is one of the prescribed solutions.

“Just shoot the shots you know you’re supposed to shoot,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said.

–Field Level Media

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