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2012-2013 Game 23 Preview: Thunder Meet The Transforming Kings

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The Kings are a team that hasn't played the same five man lineup in more than 9 games. Which lineup will we see tonight?

Whew. I don't even know what's going on here.
Whew. I don't even know what's going on here.
William Bennett Berry

2012-2013 NBA Season
The Sacramento Kings (7-15)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (18-4)
December 14th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM CST
Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network California
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 1140 KHTK The Fan
Enemy Blogs: Sactown Royalty, Cowbell Kingdom, Bleed Black and Purple
Previous Meetings: None.
Probable Starters
Aaron Brooks PG Russell Westbrook
Tyreke Evans SG Thabo Sefolosha
Jason Thompson SF Kevin Durant
John Salmons PF Serge Ibaka
DeMarcus Cousins C Kendrick Perkins

The Sacramento Kings were famous for being a run and gun team last year, relying on steals and offensive rebounds to keep their offense afloat. They were the leagues leaders in field goals taken, and probably scored 100 the most times without actually winning.

This year, their stats are similar, but for whatever reason, their offensive rebounding and steals have taken a hit, leaving them overwhelmingly average in all categories. You could point to the league's overall increase in pace this year, which is also a contributing reason.

Similarly, it's hard pointing to one specific problem or area that plagues the Kings. A quick look through Sactown Royalty's recaps will tell you that sometimes the bench underperforms, and sometimes their stars undeperform. Their bench is pretty good when you compare them to other likely non-lottery teams, but their inconsistent lineups make it hard to point to an overarching reason for their mediocrity. The Kings stars don't really help my search for problems either, because they're incredibly inconsistent as well. And it's hard to blame youth. The team is young relatively speaking, but DeMarcus Cousins, their youngest starter, is in his third year.

It might be best to think of it this way. With no major injuries, the Kings have played the same lineup in a maximum of 9 games. Basically, the same 5 guys have been out on the floor no more than 9 times in 21 games. When you've got that degree of change going on, it's hard to develop a sense of familiarity or consistent style.

You could also look at it in terms of the quality of their talent. DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Marcus Thornton are all pretty good, and they could start on playoff teams. But when's the last time you saw a Cousins jersey outside of Sacramento? None of them are All-Star caliber players. After those three, the Kings are basically a repository for average roleplayers that don't fit into a specific mold. Sometimes, things click and they can stay in games, but they don't really have that extra oomph or edge to help them win tight games against legitimately good teams.

And if you want to get into the psychology of the peripheral, you might look at how the Kings have won one game on the road in this entire season. One game.

But in terms of strategy, I assume that the Kings will try to go small against the Thunder at some point, and beat them at their own game. They'll attempt to get some easy steals, keep the pace fast, and maybe force a Thunder big into foul trouble. Still, at the end of the day, the Kings are going to try to outscore you. And that's a battle that they're going to have a mighty hard time winning against the Thunder.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Sacramento Kings 95.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.