Where They At: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are pushing this whole two steps forward/one step back metaphor to the limit. They have only one win and one loss that were standalones—the rest of the season has comprised winnings streaks followed by losing streaks. Right now, they’re chasing a 4-game victory spree with a 2-game bout of losing, dropping close but disappointing efforts to the Hawks and Heat on the road.
The Thunder have a dominant starting unit, two elite superstars, role players playing well, and combined potent offense with league-average defense. Things just aren’t adding up, though. The Thunder have had a home-heavy schedule early in the season, and are below .500 on the road (3-5).
All indicators have them as the third-best team in the West (at least), but maybe that’s just because the top tier of the league is less formidable this season? 11-8 for a healthy squad is disconcerting. Of course, this season is a long test for the roster and new coach, but so far they don’t look much better than last year’s team, let alone title contenders of Thunder seasons past.
Where They At: Sacramento Kings
Things have stayed weird in Sacramento. Rajon Rondo is playing well again, the only guard stuffing his assist line more than Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis. DeMarcus Cousins has been inefficient but mostly great, and has directed his temper in mostly productive ways. The rocky relationship between Cousins and George Karl appears okay for the time being, with Kings players and coaches and executives at least paying lip service to team-building and perseverance despite reports of Karl’s near demise.
The Kings are better this year, but that doesn’t make them the playoff-hopeful they had envisioned when burning away future assets for incremental short-term pickups this summer. There are some good lineups from the bunch, but the more Karl has to dip into his bench, the more anything resembling defense vanishes. On the right night, the Kings can pick up a quality win, but usually they’re overmatched.
This should be a get-right game for the Thunder. They’re simply better than the Kings. But they were last year, too, and got shellacked in Sacramento in a pretty ominous debut game for Dion Waiters and the 2014-15 Thunder season that wound up in the toilet. The Thunder tend to feast on teams with rickety defense, and they’re at home, so I don’t foresee a performance that would send fans searching for the panic button.
Prediction: Thunder 113 Kings 105
|2015-16 NBA Season Game #|
|December 6th, 2015|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City|
|6 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, CSN-CA, NBA League Pass|
|Injury Report: Willie Cauley-Stein (Out)|
|This Season's Matchups: N/A|
|Rajon Rondo||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Ben McLemore||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Rudy Gay||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Omri Casspi||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|DeMarcus Cousins||C||Steven Adams|