Paul looks to improve to 9-0 in his career at home against the Thunder, who are trying to beat the New Orleans Hornets for the second time this season.
New Orleans (14-7) limited Detroit to 37.5 percent shooting Wednesday in a 93-74 victory. The Hornets bounced back from Sunday’s 109-84 loss at San Antonio in which the Spurs shot 58.6 percent - the highest mark this season against New Orleans.
“Our defense was really good tonight,” Paul said. “Detroit has been struggling. We had two really good practices going into this game, so it’s really going to tell if it translates into the Oklahoma City game.”
Paul is averaging 18.1 points and 10.0 assists in eight home games against the Thunder franchise. He played in 10 straight wins in the series overall before Oklahoma City won 95-89 at home Nov. 29 despite his 17 points and 14 assists.
More telling in this matchup is the improvement Russell Westbrook(notes) has shown when facing the Hornets. Westbrook averaged 14.2 points on 35.6 percent shooting and 5.8 assists in losing his first five games to New Orleans before averaging 22.7 points and 10.0 assists in winning the last three.
“We’ve got an understanding of what the situation is, but we’ve got to be able to separate that from what we can control and just go out here and play ball,” West said. “The best situation for us is to win games and make what this organization is attractive by winning games and move on from there.”
Oklahoma City (15-8) is trying to complete a three-game trip with a winning mark. Durant had 30 points and 11 rebounds and Westbrook scored 25 as the Thunder rallied from a 19-point deficit in Wednesday’s 111-103 victory at Minnesota.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Durant said. “We’ve lost games down the stretch, won games down the stretch. We’ve won big, we’ve lost big. So, we’ve been through a lot and we’ve learned a lot in those times. We were able to come out here and get a good win.”
Coach Scott Brooks altered his rotation a bit Wednesday, resting Durant and Jeff Green(notes) for a longer stretch in the third quarter than he has in the past. The Thunder outscored Minnesota 27-17 in the fourth, improving to 12-0 when scoring at least 105 points.
“We are growing into a good team, not only physically are guys are getting better, but mentally,” Brooks said. “The experiences that they’ve gone through, not only this year, but last season. It helps. We’re not going to win every close game, but we know that we have a chance to win games.”