The Thunder won every game they played against the Kings last season by 9-10 points, but the final scores usually don't give the closeness of those game justice. Aside from a few missed shots, the Kings played more or less equally with the Thunder last season, and could make a serious run at the Thunder today if the pieces fall in the right place.
But really, let's be realistic about this season's Kings. The faces might be a bit different, but the team still isn't a whole lot better. Sure, the West is mighty and brutal, but they've only managed to beat the Suns, Nets, and Nuggets. And that Nuggets win came during the Kings' home opener. That's significant because Kings fans showed up with their team's future secured for the first time in years, which made the night especially emotional.
The Kings made a recent trade to the Timberwolves, receiving Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The results have been a mixed bag so far, but he definitely brings a bigger upside than Mbah a Moute did. The Kings have a few other players that are starting to break out, like Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, and Patrick Patterson. Thomas has been a consistent Nate Robinson-like firecracker off the bench, while Thornton and Patterson have had good games recently.
Speaking of Thomas, he was particularly effective in a fourth quarter comeback against the Thunder last season, forcing the Thunder to put their starters back into what was considered a done game. Generally speaking, he's the type of quick guard that always seems to give the not-so-quick Thunder problems. The key for Sacramento will be establishing Cousins' presence in the paint, so that the Thunder are less keen to play help defense down there. Unfortunately, Cousins never shot over 37.5% against the Thunder last season, so that's easier said than done.
On the Thunder's side of things, they've always been heavily reliant upon Kevin Durant against the Kings. They don't really have the type of player who would be effective at guarding him, so KD should be able to grab over 50% from the field if he plays his cards right. Westbrook has had trouble scoring against the quick, high-pressure defense of the Kings in the past, but he's always been able to more than make up for it in the assist category. He's facing Greivis Vasquez this time around though, so I don't foresee him having any problems tonight. Generally speaking, the Kings will have to rely upon getting the Thunder to foul and keeping the Thunder off the glass.
At the end of the day, the Kings aren't as talented as the Thunder, but they're a viable team on certain nights. They shoot themselves in the foot a lot with bad mistakes and turnovers, but if everything clicks, they can beat anybody. I just hope that their journey to clicktown isn't coming tonight, because we've got to face the Blazers tomorrow.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Sacramento Kings 100.
What do you think about tonight's game? Let us know in the comments!