2012-2014 Game 77 Preview: Thunder attempt to dispatch Kings

Get outta here, Demarcus! - Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings stand in the way of the Clips tomorrow, Isaiah Thomas is injured, and Rudy Gay has a baby on the way. Let's take care of business.

2013-2014 NBA Season
Thunder_medium_medium
@
Kings_medium
55-21
Lost 2

27-50
Lost 2
April 8th, 2014
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California
9:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network California
Radio: WWLS 98.1FM OKC, KHTK Sports 1140
Injury Report: Thabo Sefolosha (Out), Russell Westbrook (Probably Out), Rudy Gay (Baby on the Way), Isaiah Thomas (Out), Carl Landry (Out), Jason Terry (Chillin')
Previous Matchups:  Dec 3 (W 97-95), Jan 19 (W 108-93), Mar 28 (W 94-81)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Ray McCallum
Andre Roberson SG Ben McLemore
Kevin Durant SF Rudy Gay
Serge Ibaka PF Reggie Evans
Kendrick Perkins C DeMarcus Cousins
2013/14 Advanced Stats
98.1 (9th) Pace 96.7 (14th)
107.9 (7th) ORtg 103.0 (17th)
100.8 (5th) DRtg 106.1 (23rd)

With two straight losses on their backs and six games left in the season, the Thunder have been all but eliminated from contention for the Western Conference's first seed. The San Antonio Spurs have simply been too consistent this season, taking care of business against bad teams while the Thunder dealt with injuries and rotating personnel.

So, the question now becomes this: What are the Thunder playing for? Currently, only the Clippers have a realistic shot of taking away their two seed. LA has played two more games than OKC, and lost them both. Thus, the Thunder would need to lose at least twice over the next six games in order to give the Clips some hope. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Thunder play the Clippers tomorrow, on the second end of a back-to-back after tonight's Kings game. Should OKC win tonight's game and tomorrow's game, the two seed would be almost virtually guaranteed.

However, there is another factor at play here. Should the Thunder make the NBA finals, seeding is irrelevant. The better team's record always gets home court advantage, and that can be essential in such a tightly contested series. I know that looking at it now is a bit premature, but the Heat have lost two games more than the Thunder, and have six games left in the season as well. As long as the Thunder can finish in front of them, they'll hold home court advantage against all but one of our potential playoff opponents. And we're 4-0 against the one opponent that would have home court on us, so that's pretty darn cool.

Thus, winning tonight's game against Sacramento is kind of a big deal. It should be a relatively painless task. I don't want to sound dismissive, but OKC has the Kings' number. I'm perfectly willing to admit that the league has produced a lot of effective Thunder-killing teams this season, but the Kings simply aren't one of them. Out of the three matchups both teams have played, the Kings have only managed to make one game competitive. And that was only on the back of a miraculous Isaiah Thomas fourth quarter run. He's not playing tonight.

Of course, the Kings still have Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. But those guys haven't ever seen much success against the Thunder. Cousins hasn't shot over 40% against Big Blue once in the past two seasons, and both of Rudy Gay's forays against Oklahoma City's team were horrible. Both of those players tend to struggle because they're off-the-dribble scorers who rely on their size. The Thunder have a ton of long and skilled defenders, so it's hard for them to score as consistently as they normally do.

The rest of this team really isn't much to write home about. Derrick Williams hasn't been an X-Factor in weeks, and their rookies are really struggling. Moreover, the team has no real defensive advantage that can open the door for them to win games. They're too small to out-rebound most teams, their 1 on 1 defense is nothing special, and they're not very good at forcing turnovers. Thus, the Kings are almost totally reliant on two big scorers to run over other teams, and it usually takes a bit more than that to beat the Thunder.

But if I've learned one thing about the Kings over the years, it's that you should never underestimate them. Obviously there's no huge "Here We Stay" movement to keep the fans motivated, but Sacramento's crowd is always ready to get involved in late-season games. Furthermore, Russell Westbrook will likely be sitting out of this game, so there's a good chance that Butler and Fisher could struggle from the floor and let the Kings' bench have a run.

At the end of the day though, this should be an easy win. Rudy Gay is expecting his wife to deliver a baby at any moment, so he could literally run out of the game at any time. Furthermore, I just don't see the Kings' offense having the ball movement needed. They're the leagues worst team in that regard, averaging just 18.8 assists a game. No dimes mean no floor space, and no floor space means no win against the Thunder.

Slammin' Notes: Durant's streak of 25 point games stands at 41. To beat Chamberlain's all-time streak of 80 games, he would only need 39 more games of scoring at that level......Grant Jerrett, the Thunder's second-round pick last year, was signed to a ten day contract today. He'll space the floor with his jumper in practice, but that's likely it.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 123, Sacramento Kings 99.

What do you think of tonight's game? Let us know in the comments!

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