Preview 16 of 82: Thunder @ Kings
Time: 9:00 PM CST
TV: NBA TV & FSOK
The Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5) are on the road tonight in Sacramento, taking on the upstart Kings (8-8) at the Golden 1 Center. Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, the Thunder are again at risk of being shorthanded — as Terrance Ferguson (personal) and Andre Roberson (knee) will be missing from the lineup. However, Russell Westbrook (ankle/personal) is with the team in California and is considered a game-time decision after going through this morning’s shootaround. Alex Abrines, who missed Saturday’s contest in Phoenix due to illness, is also a game-time decision but appears likely to suit up.
Should Westbrook sit once more, OKC will again run its offense through a red-hot Paul George, as he’s scored 30+ points in each of the last three games and is averaging 27.8 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and 2.6 steals over the last five outings. Even if the former MVP does return to the fold, look for George to keep it rolling against a Kings defense that is surrendering 116.3 points per game — tied for 27th in the NBA.
Tip-off is at 9:00 P.M. CST and will be televised on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 2.5-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
Update: Per Brett Dawson of The Athletic, Russell Westbrook will play. No minutes restriction.
- Russell Westbrook: ACTIVE — Ankle
- Alex Abrines: Questionable — Illness
- Terrance Ferguson: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Kosta Koufos: Out — Calf
Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Iman Shumpert, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein
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Oct. 21: SAC 131, OKC 120 [BOX SCORE]
What to Watch For
Injury Update: Per Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com: “Russell Westbrook was back with the team after leaving to attend to his wife Nina and the birth of his twin girls, Jordyn and Skye. His status, along with the status of Alex Abrines (illness) will be determined at game time. Terrance Ferguson is not with the team while still attending to a personal matter.”
Last Time Out: The Kings spoiled Westbrook’s 2018-19 debut on October 21 in OKC, shooting 54.9 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from long range to take a 131-120 victory. Iman Shumpert led the way in that one with 26 points — and seven Kings scored in double-figures, including all five starters. The Thunder got productive nights out of Westbrook and George, but the rest of the team struggled — most notably Steven Adams, who finished with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Look for a bigger night out of Big Kiwi, as he’s averaging 20.4 points and 9.2 rebounds over the last five games.
Upstart Kings: The Kings are off to a surprising 8-8 start, playing exceptionally well under head coach Dave Joerger. They’re averaging a healthy 113.7 PPG and are led by point guard De’Aaron Fox (19 PPG, 7 APG) and OU alum Buddy Hield (18.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG). They’ve cooled off after starting 6-3, having lost five of their last seven and two in a row entering tonight. Regardless of their expected regression, this team is certainly capable of getting a win every time they step on the floor. If Fox can find his rhythm early, everything else falls into place quickly for the Kings.
Kangz Gonna Kangz: Per a report from Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, Joerger is in danger of losing his job as Sacramento’s head coach — despite the 8-8 record and clear overachievement to start the 2018-19 season. The report states that the Kings’ front office is unhappy with how Joerger has favored veteran’s over young players in need of development — particularly the light workload for no. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III. MB3 is averaging 22.6 minutes per game this season but saw 27 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Houston. I reckon the Thunder should prepare for plenty of the young man in tonight’s contest — as Joerger may or may not have a choice in the matter.
Fully Auto PG: George has been lights out in the Thunder’s current three-game winning streak. A look at his numbers in those games:
- Nov. 12 vs PHX: 32 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast, 11/19 FG, 6/10 3P
- Nov 14 vs NYK: 35 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 13/22 FG, 5/11 3P
- Nov 17 PHX: 32 pts, 11 reb, 3 blk, 3 stl, 9/22 FG, 3/10 3P
All told, George has averaged 26.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals on 45.5 percent shooting, 38.9 percent from deep, in Westbrook’s six-game absence. His usage will naturally dip should the star point guard return to the lineup, but PG13 has been nothing short of elite after an underwhelming start to the season.