This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 9 PM Central Standard Time
Place: Arco Arena, Sacramento, California
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast Sports California
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): Sactown Royalty
Backstory: Finally, an easy game!
Maybe it's my extreme bias after seeing only 6 games, but I'm feeling that we have a cream puff matchup tonight, facing the Kings without their star player in Kevin Martin. The Kings are 3-4, and the Thunder are 3-3, but our situations are very different. The Kings have gotten two of their wins over the free-falling Grizzlies, and the extremely talented yet lazy Warriors. I saw the Warriors game, it was like watching a team play a bunch of street ballers. Granted, they do have a win at Utah, but they've shown that they can have a freak win every once in a while, as evidenced by them beating the Lakers last season. Granted, our wins aren't much better coming against the Kings, Grizzlies, and depleted Magic, but the key win in there is against the Kings. And it wasn't a luck win, it was a beatdown. And they had Kevin Martin.
Still, before we think we're in cake walk city, we have to think of the Kings recent success. This team, while not very talented, plays as a cohesive unit and follows a very specific game plan. The management obviously isn't looking for talent, as evidenced by their recent cut of Desmond Mason and unwillingness so sign any big name FAs. They're saving money, and in the meantime, trying to create an exciting, fast break team that people might actually watch. As a result, they're going to win some games they shouldn't win, and, perhaps, lose some games they shouldn't lose. Luckily, we have their number.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Matchups: (Note: The Kings switch their lineup a lot, so I'm doing the best I can to determine who will start where.)
Nenad Krstic had a good game against the Magic, but I'm not sure whether he can keep up the pace against the young and athletic Kings. He's a big question mark, but against an average Center like Krstic, you can imagine that Hawes will have an average night.
I wouldn't expect anything out of the norm to happen here. It's a perfect opportunity for Jeff Green to get back to his old scoring form, and a prefect opportunity for Jason Thompson to have a good game, as usual. Jeff Green will win in most categories, but I imagine Jason Thompson will get more rebounds.
Last time, Nocioni had a pretty bad game, but this time, he might be considered the focal point of his teams offense. Thus, while his overall production will improve, I don't see Kevin Durant's performance being any different than the first time around. And he was pretty darn good in that first game.
Thabo Sefolosha had an average game the first time around, but his shooting has gotten a lot hotter. Meanwhile, Beno Udrih has moved into the starting lineup, and he's helped out in the scoring and assist categories. So I'd say they score about equally, Thabo does better with the intangibles, and Beno does better with the assists.
Tyreke Evans has turned out to be a great scoring point guard, a average passer, and a great rebounder for his size. Does this remind you of anyone? Oh yeah, Russell Westbrook. Still, Westbrook is a better rebounder and passer, which, to me, is more important than scoring and stealing, which Evans is better at. The key factor here could be turnovers, which is troubling, because Westbrook has a lot more, and Evans is an adept stealer. We'll see, but this is definitely an intriguing matchup.
Battle of the Benches
The Kings are willing to go 11 or 12 deep on their bench, as they're still trying to figure out an optimal lineup. That doesn't make it any more talented, though, so I'd say we have the advantage talent-wise, but they have the advantage stamina-wise.
Coaching and Intangibles
The Kings and Thunder are coming off big wins against the Warriors and Magic, respectively. The Kings are at home, but their fans are looking pretty thin these days, they're without Kevin Martin, and we've beaten this team before. I'd say the intangibles are in our favor.
If we're truly going to be a .500 team, this is a game we shouldn't lose. But, if we do lose, all hope is not lost. All in all, it's really just another bump in the road, and I don't see it shifting momentum hugely towards or against us either way. Nevertheless, a win here and against the Clippers tomorrow would do wonders for us going into Saturday at the Spurs. As long as the Thunder take care of the ball, keep the pace in our favor, and play good defense, we should win this game easily.
Prediction: Thunder 107, Kings 89
Alright, alright....I'm being a homer. But come on, it's the Kings without Kevin Martin!
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I might be here during the game to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!