There's a very good point raised by the preview of this game over at Sactown Royalty:
"1. The Thunder have consistently had Sacramento's number over the years to the point that Sacramento has beaten Oklahoma City just three times in 24 attempts since the team formerly known as the Supersonics first moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. Ten of those losses have been by double digits and Sacramento has never won by more than five in the few wins that they have had. This is just a tough, tough team that matches up very well with Sacramento."
Remember when Perk was saying that "These f-----s are still the Sacramento Kings?" There was definitely bark to back his bite. The Thunder have been ridiculously good while the Kings have been ridiculously bad for nearly the entire existence of the matchup, so there's that. But really, the main reason for OKC's success has been their ridiculous interior defense. DeMarcus Cousins has been a huge factor in the Kings' offense over the past five years, and Boogie just can't seem to find any success against the triumvirate of Ibaka, Perk, and Collison.
Need proof? Look no further than Cousins' career field goal percentage against the Thunder: 39.8% The only teamto hold Boogie to a lower percentage has been Washington, and he has played the Wizards half as much as the Thunder. But that's not all. Cousins' has only averaged 1.5 assists per game against the Thunder in his career, second lowest in the NBA.
When you look at DeMarcus Cousins' skill set, it's not hard to see why he struggles. The fundamentally sound tactics of Collison are perfect for taking away Boogie's excellent footwork. The big body and aggressiveness of Perk are perfect for keeping Boogie away from the basket. Lastly, the athletic help defense of Ibaka is perfect at keeping Boogie from taking easy shots down low.
Rudy Gay, the Kings' current second offensive option, is a similar type of player. He uses his body to his advantage, posting up smaller players on the wing and generally succeeding in isolation situations. The Thunder are a team that thrives on live ball turnovers, so OKC generally likes to trap players and play with a high level of pressure. This is bad for a player like Gay, because the pressure forces him out of his spot and the trap forces him to pass. There's less evidence for Gay's ineptitude against the Thunder overall. But I still would like to cite Gay's career 48.9% true shooting percentage against OKC, second lowest only to Washington.
Anyway, that's all old news. The new news is that Tyrone Corbin is now the Kings' coach, and he's running things differently. The first change Corbin made was to implement a faster offensive pace, which encourages the players to get up the court more and take quicker shots. It's been a complete disaster for the most part, explained well by Tom Ziller in a recent Hook column:
"Just as aggravating, the front office's vision for an up-tempo, ball-sharing style of play isn't any closer to realization under Corbin. The Kings' two best offensive players are Cousins, perhaps the league's best halfcourt big man, and Rudy Gay, a creative but methodical slasher. Darren Collison is fast and Ben McLemore can fly down the wings, but there are no rotation bigs on the roster you'd imagine thriving in an up-tempo system. The team has all of two good passers who aren't point guards (Cousins, Gay). Jason Thompson isn't Boris Diaw, nor is he Draymond Green, no matter how much you wish it so."
The one thing I'd like to point out about that article is the success of Collison and McLemore. In the 9 games since Malone's firing, Darren Collison has averaged 54% from the floor, and 53% from three. Still, despite that promising statistic, Collison is only averaging 1 point more than his season average. Meanwhile, Ben McLemore is handling the ball more, has a marginally better shooting percentage, and is getting more assists. But McLeMore is also getting more turnovers and has not noticeable difference in the rest of his production.
I was hoping to say that the Kings might be able to upset the Thunder because of the pace change, but it's hard to see shots going away from Gay and Cousins. And as long as those two dominate Sacramento's offense, it's going to be really hard for them to find success. Not impossible, but hard. Also, there's this.... (Via a recent Aykis16 article over at Sactown Royalty)
".... the Kings schedule has been so much weaker these past 10 games than at any point during the season. Under Malone, the Kings faced one of the tougher schedules in the league and came out smelling like roses. Even with Cousins out, for the Kings to have been just two games under .500 despite facing opponents with a collective .549 winning percentage was still pretty impressive. The slight improvements Corbin has made to the offense seem to pale in comparison when you consider the combined win percentage of Sacramento's last 10 opponents is just .400. That also means that Sacramento's already horrid defense is probably even worse than it looks on paper."
Yikes! The Thunder are coming off a shellacking from the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, but I don't think that OKC is prone to let the same thing happen twice. They've always answered blowouts with at least a competitive game, and this isn't the second night of a back-to-back. Also, the Thunder will have Dion Waiters available off the bench tonight, per Darnell Mayberry.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 111, Sacramento Kings 96.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2014-15 NBA Season Game 36|
|January 7th, 2014|
|Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California|
|9:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network California|
|Injury Report: Mitch McGary, Ramon Sessions, Omri Cassipi, Eric Moreland (Out)|
|This Year's Matchups: Nov 9 (W 101-93), Dec 16 (W 104-92)|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Darren Collison|
|Andre Roberson||SG||Ben McLemore|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Rudy Gay|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Jason Thompson|
|Steven Adams||C||DeMarcus Cousins|