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Thunder vs. Kings: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Kings: Pregame Primer



Thunder (8-7, 2-3 road) vs. Kings (5-9, 3-4 home)

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 9:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 101.0 (23rd), Kings – 103.1 (16th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.4 (7th), Kings – 108.4 (30th)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The Oklahoma City Thunder cannot continue to put themselves in deep holes to start games off. It was cute when the Thunder team did it last season, because Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were usually there to clean up the mess on aisle 8. This year’s team, though, isn’t yet good enough to consistently dig themselves out of big deficits.

Westbrook is still Westbrook’ing, but teams are now defending the Thunder completely different than they did last season. Gone is the threat of Durant’s scoring and ability to make difficult shots. With that threat gone, defenses are now just camping in the lane and cutting any avenue for Westbrook (and Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter) to operate in the lane, taking away the Thunder’s main staple on offense.

Secondly, the Thunder are being way too aggressive on the wings defensively. If it works, then the Thunder are disrupting the opponent’s offense and getting turnovers. But if it doesn’t work, then the defense is out of position and playing 4 on 5 basketball. The Thunder defense is finding itself too many times in 4 on 5 situations. They were a lot more disciplined earlier in the season, and that falls squarely on the shoulders of Westbrook and Oladipo. They have got to do a better job of staying with their man.

Season Series Preview

This is the first of three meetings this season between the Kings and Thunder. The teams split their season series last year, with each team winning once on its home floor and once on the road.

The Opponent

The Kings are currently 5-9, but have have a lot better of late, even if their record in their last 4 games doesn’t really reflect that. They beat the Raptors in their last game, but lost the previous 3 to the Clippers, Spurs, and Trailblazers by a total of 13 points. This team is starting to click under new coach Dave Joerger, who decided to start playing more small ball about 5 games ago.

The Kings are led by probably the best offensive big man in the league in DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 26.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Cousins appears to be maturing and a lot of that may be due to his experience this summer with Team USA. Forward Rudy Gay is having, perhaps, the best season of his career, with career-highs in scoring and 3-point percentage if the current averages hold up. In the backcourt, Darren Collison is doing a good job of directing the team after missing the first 8 games of the season due to suspension. Veterans Matt Barnes and Arron Afflalo have given the wing position a more defensive look for Sacramento, but their age may be showing in their inability to consistently stick with faster wings.


  • Cameron Payne (foot)

3 Big Things

1. Attack, attack

Sacramento struggles mightily with help-side defense. Their big men are slow and struggle with rotations and their wings have a hard time staying in front of the guy they are guarding. All leads to a defense that breaks down once the first guy gets past the first line of defense. Russell Westbrook should get into the teeth of this defense pretty easily. The question is whether the rest of the team can make Sacramento pay for sending help Westbrook’s way.

2. Rebounding

Outside of Cousins, the Kings are a poor rebounding team. They rank 29th in total rebounding, grabbing a paltry 41.1 per game. If the Thunder can find a way to keep Kanter in the game for over 20 minutes, he should have a good rebounding game.

3. Auditions

This may be an audition for several players on both sides for their new teams. *Hint, hint*