The Oklahoma City Thunder have dominated their recent matchups with the Charlotte Bobcats, but by all appearances, they would appear to have a more difficult opponent for the next one.
The Bobcats will seek to add to their best start in franchise history by earning their first win in Oklahoma City on Monday night.
The Thunder (10-4) have prevailed in five of their last six games against Charlotte and have found little competition in winning the last three, outscoring the Bobcats an average of 20.7. They took a 122-95 victory in Oklahoma City in the lone meeting last season en route to the franchise's first Western Conference title since relocating from Seattle after the 2007-08 season.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, made dubious history last season by finishing 7-59 - the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The hiring of Mike Dunlap as coach and a few key additions, however, have quickly changed the struggling franchise's fortunes.
Charlotte matched its victory total from 2011-12 on Saturday by prevailing 108-106 in double overtime at winless Washington. Former Thunder player Byron Mullens had season-high 27 points and eight rebounds to the lead the Bobcats to their sixth win in eight games.
Ramon Sessions contributed 21 points off the bench to help his team overcome the absences of Gerald Henderson (sprained left foot) and Tyrus Thomas (strained left calf), both of whom are out for "foreseeable future," according to Dunlap.
"We're trying to go from the losingest organization in the history of the NBA to establishing where people have to respect us," Dunlap said. "I don't know anything about wins. I do know about respect."
A victory over a Thunder team that has won nine of 11 could help Charlotte (7-5) get a little more respect.
Oklahoma City bounced back from Friday's 108-100 loss to Boston with a hard-fought 116-109 overtime victory in Philadelphia the next night. The Thunder missed their final seven shots in regulation but hit four key 3-pointers in the extra period. Kevin Durant had one of those as part of his season-high 37 points and Russell Westbrook had another while finishing with 30.
"We weren't making shots at the end, but I like the fact guys continued to stick with each other and trust each other," coach Scott Brooks said. "Trust isn't a word we throw around loosely. You're not always going to make shots, but if a guy is open, you have to trust he'll make the next one."
Since relocating, Oklahoma City has won all four home meetings with Charlotte. The Bobcats also lost in two visits to the city when the Hornets split time between playing there and in New Orleans from 2005-07.
Charlotte is 1-7 all-time on the road against the Thunder franchise and earned the lone win in Seattle on March 28, 2008.
The Bobcats' Kemba Walker, who averages a team-best 18.0 points, scored four on 2-of-7 shooting against the Thunder last season.