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Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (42-16) vs. Sacramento Kings (19-40)
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Chesapeake Energy Arena Powered by Some Blazin' Blue Natural Gas, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net California
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KAHI 950 AM
Enemy Blog(s): Sactown Royalty, Cowbell Kingdom
Previous Matchup(s): Feb. 9 (Kings Lead Season Series 1-0)
The Kings are actually winning the season series. Yep, you read that right. If you'll remember, back in February, the Kings dropped 106 points on the Thunder and destroyed them in terms of offensive rebounds and forced turnovers. We didn't have Thabo Sefolosha back then, but still, it was a performance most of us wouldn't like to remember. The Thunder couldn't stop penetration on any level, and they succumbed to pressure on offense.
The reason the Kings won is because they play a very fast pace. They rank ninth in total points per game, but they rank first in shots taken per game, which tells you something about how they try to score. Defensively, they know that the Thunder are very reliant on two of their scorers, and could pretty much pressure the heck out of them while nearly ignoring the rest of the team. Nobody made them pay for their strategy, and the Kings dominated.
Since the early season loss, the Kings have been taken over by Keith Smart, waived J.J. Hickson, and signed Terrence Williams. In other words: Not much. The team is in full tank mode right now, with poor attendance and ownership controversy not helping matters. This team has a couple of impressive wins on its resume coming against the Jazz and Grizzlies, but they've lost their last seven straight.
What the Thunder have to do tonight is simple. They need to play perimeter defense, and have their guards keep up with penetrating guards. Hoping Perkins and/or Ibaka can deal with it simply isn't enough. If they can do this, barring a miracle of a game from the Kings, they'll win. Sorry to sound so off-putting of the Kings, but it's true. It doesn't matter how bad the Thunder shoot, or how many turnovers they commit. When you shut down the one-dimensional Kings offense, you shut down the Kings.
If the Thunder don't do that, it's anybody's game.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Sacramento Kings 87