(This also counts as an Open Thread, so post your thoughts on the game here.)
Back story: The Thunder and Kings are kicking off their seasons on the not-so-glamorous second day. The Kings are infamous for cutting expenses and being universally predicted to finish in the dungeon of the West. Aside from Kevin Martin, this team is a collection of forgotten role players, featuring everybody from Sean May to Andres Nocioni to Desmond Mason to Beno Udrih. But, there's one thing one shouldn't put past the Kings: They know how to score. Don't be surprised if this game goes into the 110s or higher.
Thunder fans should be worried about this game, because the Kings absolutely destroyed our starting lineup in the Pre-Season. It could have been due to lack of effort on our part or just a one-in-a-million game for them, but this team might have our kryptonite. They have a bunch of quick and athletic forwards and guards who can sink jumpers from all over the floor, and if we find ourselves in a offensive drought, they'll be the team to capitalize on that fact.
This game will serve as the benchmark of our season. Do we want to start off with a losing record to a team with no hope of the playoffs, or do we want to start off on top? I'll tell you one thing: Playoff teams don't have many losses to the Kings.
Below: Player Match-ups, Game Prediction
Center- Nenad Krstic vs. Spencer Hawes
I'd give this match-up to Spencer Hawes. He's younger, more athletic, and will easily slip by Krstic for eay points in the post. He won't shut down Krstic defensively, but his offensive game will be so good that I'd call this matchup a win for him.
Power Forward- Jeff Green vs. Jason Thompson
Jeff Green has the clear upper hand here. Thompson had decent stats last year, but he'll be no match defensively for Jeff Green, and barring a total collapse, Jeff Green will beat him in every area of the stat sheet.
Small Forward- Kevin Durant vs. Andres Nocioni
Nocioni is solid, but he's no match for future All-Star Kevin Durant. They'll both put up big numbers, but Kevin Durant's will be bigger.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Kevin Martin
Considering who the starting Shooting Guard is facing, I'd say Thabo gets the start here. Nevertheless, the best defender in the world couldn't shot down Kevin Martin. This guy will be driving to the hole all day, getting to the line all day, and popping in three pointers all-day. He might have 4 or 5 turnovers due to Thabo's hard-nosed defense, but he'll still have a huge day. And if we break in Harden against this guy, I'd expect a field day. So I'd recommend playing Weaver in spurts here, just for the defense, and breaking in Harden against the Pistons or Blazers. their shooting guards are still good, but they're on the main focus of the teams offense. Regardless, this matchup is going to be a big win for Kevin Martin.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Tyreke Evans
The Kings have a couple of over-hyped PGs in Evans an Udrih. In reality, both of them are pretty bad when compared to Russell Westbrook. I'd expect Westbrook to have a Triple-Double tonight (thanks to all of the offense) and have less turnovers than usual against a rookie point guard in his first real NBA game.
Battle of the Benches
On the Thunder's side of things, I'd expect the younger forwards like Ibaka and White to have a big night against the Kings, and the more immobile big men to have pretty dreadful nights. The Kings have Desmond Mason who will provide hustle off the bench, a decent backup PG in Udrih, and some big men who can rebound in Kenny Thomas and Sean May. Still, the team is pretty short-handed as a whole, so the Thunder can take advantage when the Kings starters are on the bench.
Coaching and Intangibles
It's Opening Night; need I say more? We'll have a huge crowd advantage. Some of the crowd might defect to Desmond Mason at times, but overall, the intangibles are in our favour, especially since the Kings are starting a rookie point guard.
The Thunder would do best by trying to control the pace of the game, taking care of the ball, and avoiding bad shots. If they can just play ball control all-night long, we can wrap up a victory here. Just stay cool and don't get sloppy. The pre-season is over, this is where the real teams can win.
Thunder 112, Kings 108
A close game, but a win is a win.
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'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!