Kings vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer
Kings (13-20, 4-11 road) vs. Thunder (24-10, 16-4 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.5 (2nd), Kings – 102.1 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.3 (8th), Kings – 105.5 (26th)
Just when you think things are going good, reality comes back to assure you that things can change in an instant. On Saturday, Kevin Durant logged 35 minutes of ho-hum basketball against the Charlotte Hornets. He scored 29 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and played only 3:30 minutes in the fourth quarter as the Thunder cruised to a 19 point victory. On Sunday, at the season ticket holder party, Durant was moving around without an inkling of injury.
But on Monday, the Thunder announced that Durant would be out for the Kings’ game because of a sprained right toe. It doesn’t appear to be anything serious, but the Thunder will likely be extremely cautious with this injury. Durant missed 4 games last season because of the same ailment on the left toe. With the Kings, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Trailblazers next up on the docket, the Thunder can realistically sit Durant out for that set of games without running the risk of causing too much damage to their record.
This is the 2nd of 4 meetings between the Thunder and Kings this season. The Thunder won the first meeting 98-95. The Thunder were up by 12 to begin the 4th quarter of that game, but found themselves down by 7 with 3 minutes left to play. From that point on, the Thunder outscored the Kings 12-2 to secure the victory. That win galvanized the Thunder who have gone on to win 12 of their next 14 games.The Opponent
The Kings come into this game with a 13-20 record. They won their last game against the slumping Phoenix Suns by scoring 142 points in regulation! Previous to that, though, they had three in a row. The Kings are one of those teams that try to beat you by focusing almost all of the effort on offense. While not entirely efficient, the offense does score 105.3 points per game, which is 3rd in the league. Unfortunately, that scoring prowess goes to waste, as the Kings allow the most points in the league (107.7).
The Kings have 8 players that average at least 7.5 points per game. They are led by DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 24.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. The steam that gets the Sacramento engine going is Rajon Rondo, who is looking more and more like his old Boston self. He leads the league in assists per game, at 11.3, and has 4 triple doubles this season. Rudy Gay is still a threat from the wing, averaging 17.5 ppg this season. Darren C0llison, Omri Casspi, and Marco Belinelli have all benefited from the Kings’ uptempo offense, and all three are scoring in double digits. Defensively, Willie Cauley-Stein is back from injury and should help out in the middle.3 Big Things
1.Attack the Paint
The Kings rank 26th in blocks per game, at 3.9. They are very soft in the middle, which is why they give up so many points. Their wings are necessarily great defenders, so Russell Westbrook, Cameron Payne, and Dion Waiters should have no problem collapsing the defense as they constantly drive into the lane.
2. Perimeter Defense
As the Thunder saw in their last meeting with the Kings, they can get hot from the perimeter in a hurry. They made 4 three-pointers in a 9 minute span in the fourth quarter that saw a 12 point deficit turn into a 7 point lead. They are adept at making shots from deep and from mid-range. Their offense involves a lot of high screen and rolls and they usually play small, with only one big out there. With Durant out, look for the Thunder to play a lot of small ball with Kyle Singler (and not Anthony Morrow) replacing Durant.
3. Foul, if necessary
The Kings are the 6th worst free throw shooting team in the league, only making 71.9% of their free throws. In the last meeting with the Thunder, they shot just 60% from the line, leaving 12 points off the board. Three of their top players (Rondo, Casspi, and Kosta Koufos) shoot under 60% on FT’s for the season.Slump-buster (The opposing player most likely to either break out of a slump or have a career game):
Omri Casspi – Not that Casspi has been on any sort of slump, but out of all the Kings’ wing players, Casspi has been the most consistent. He is shooting over 50% from the field overall and is shooting a blistering 47.7% from deep on 4 attempts per game. He burned the Warriors a couple games ago for 36 points, going 9-12 from deep.