Thunder (24-17, 9-11 road) vs. Kings (16-23, 8-11 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 8:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.1 (15th), Kings – 104.4 (17th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.7 (8th), Kings – 108.4 (26th)
When you are on the road, winnable games are never a certainty. After defeating the Timberwolves soundly in their first two meetings this season, most thought it would be another walk in the park in their third meeting of the season. But as the Thunder soon found out, nothing is guaranteed on the road. The Timberwolves, like most young teams with a good new coach, have slowly come around to matching their new coach’s identity, and put the defensive shackles on the Thunder. Steven Adams struggled to get anything inside and Russell Westbrook had one of his worst games of the season (in a triple-double effort, at that). On the other end of the floor, the Thunder struggled in containing Karl-Anthony Towns, and were shut down anytime they tried to make a comeback.
The road (literally) only gets tougher for the Thunder from here on out. Kings tonight and the Clippers on Monday on a back to back. And then Warriors on Wednesday. Tonight’s game will be the key for these next three games. Lose tonight, and the possibility of 0-4 on the first four games of this six game road trip becomes a very distinct possibility. The Thunder are young, and this is where they learn about NBA life: win the winnable games when you can, because the NBA is teeming with teams that are either better than you or competing on your same level.
Season Series Summary
This is the second of three meetings this season between the Thunder and Kings. The Kings beat the Thunder 116-101 in their first meeting as DeMarcus Cousins beasted the Thunder for 36 points and 13 boards.
The Kings come into this game with a 16-23 record, having lost 4 of their last 5 games. The Kings were in position for the 8th seed about two weeks ago, but have since lost 6 of 8 to lose that spot to the Trailblazers. The Kings’ problem has always been defense and it’s no different this season. Head coach Dave Joerger has Sacramento playing a bit better than last season, but the team still struggles with their rotations to find players stable enough on both ends of the floor to play consistent minutes.
3 Big Things
1. Perimeter Defense
The Kings have five rotation players that shoot 38% or better from 3-point territory. With all the attention that Cousins demands, the Kings’ wings have been finding space by the bunches to shoot their outside shots. In addition, Cousins himself is shooting 38% from deep on nearly 5 attempts per game. With Rudy Gay manning the mid-range, the Kings have scorers on all levels of the floor. But the perimeter is where they can turn a close game into a blowout.
2. DeMarcus Cousins
Steven Adams had a great defensive series in the Grizzlies game. But he’s looked very human on his 1 to 1 match-up with Karl-Anthony Towns. And he had no answer for Cousins in their last meeting. What makes Cousins completely different than most big man is that he can beat you on the outside and on the inside. When Cousins gets it going from outside, it completely takes Adams out of his safe zone on the interior.
3. Attack the Paint
The Kings are not great at protecting the rim. If Westbrook can get by the first line of defense (as he usually can), then Adams needs to be ready to receive those pocket passes from Westbrook. This may actually be a good game to play both Adams and Enes Kanter, as Sacramento doesn’t really have too many wings that are threats to drive to the basket.