Hornets-Thunder Preview

The Associated Press

The Oklahoma City Thunder can get up and down the floor with any team in the NBA. However, they understand they'll need to shut teams down if they're going to accomplish their goals.

Oklahoma City will try to extend its longest winning streak in three seasons to nine on Wednesday night when it goes for a seventh consecutive victory over the Western Conference-worst New Orleans Hornets.

The Thunder (17-4) are scoring 111.4 points per game since their last defeat to boost their league-leading average to 106.0.

Oklahoma City is also among the NBA's best on defense, yielding 96.5 points per contest on 42.6 percent shooting.

It was hard to tell in the opening 24 minutes against Indiana on Sunday, but after a stern halftime lecture from coach Scott Brooks, the Thunder limited the Pacers to 37 points en route to a 104-93 victory.

"You can score back and forth if you want to, but defending is what we do," said Russell Westbrook, who is averaging 22.0 points and 8.8 assists during the winning streak.

So is winning at home, where the Thunder are 11-2. They're outscoring opponents by an average of 16.0 points in reeling off seven straight there.

Oklahoma City goes for its sixth consecutive home win over the Hornets (5-15) after posting two victories in New Orleans already - 110-95 on Nov. 16 and 100-79 on Dec. 1.

"It definitely helps (facing them twice already)," Westbrook said following Tuesday's practice. "... we know what they run, we know how they like to play, but it's definitely going to be tough beating a team three times."

Maybe not. The Hornets are coming off their fourth consecutive loss, 77-70 at home to league-worst Washington on Tuesday. New Orleans scored 28 second-half points and finished a season-worst 32.5 percent (26 for 80) from the field.

"We did not play with the effort that is necessary to win an NBA game,'' said coach Monty Williams, whose team has dropped 13 of 15.

One positive for New Orleans moving forward is that rookie forward Anthony Davis is back after missing 11 games due to a stress reaction in his left ankle. The No. 1 overall pick returned Tuesday and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, three block and three steals in 25 minutes off the bench.

Davis missed the Dec. 1 matchup but scored eight points with 11 boards in the first meeting with Oklahoma City.

The former Kentucky star should be able to help center Robin Lopez against Oklahoma City big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, but the Hornets are still looking for a way to slow down Durant, whose career 52.4 shooting percentage versus New Orleans is his best against any Western foe.

The three-time reigning scoring champ has hit 16 of 25 shots against New Orleans this season while piling up a team-best 47 points.

Thunder reserve guard Kevin Martin has 46 points in those contests while playing 11 fewer minutes. The Oklahoma City newcomer is shooting 52.5 percent (32 for 61) from beyond the arc at home.

Hornets 3-point specialist Ryan Anderson is 15 for 33 from long range during the team's skid despite missing all seven second-half attempts on Tuesday.

Anderson is 6 for 14 from beyond the arc against Oklahoma City this season while pacing the team with 36 total points and 17 boards.

The Thunder, winners of 10 of 11 in this series, last won nine straight Jan. 29-Feb. 21, 2010.

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