The Oklahoma City Thunder look to bounce back tonight against the Sacramento Kings from the Golden 1 Center.
To begin an arduous six-game road gauntlet, Oklahoma City’s latest performance was certainly less than ideal. The Thunder was stunned 96-86 by a Minnesota iteration currently occupying the Northwest Division basement.
Granted, young Minnesota is showcasing signs of improvement amid a three-game winning streak. However, Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook appeared lethargic and confounded Friday evening while suffering one of the team's worst all-around outings of the season.
Opposite the Timberwolves, leading MVP candidate Westbrook again floundered from deep (1-of-10 3PM) and committed ten crucial turnovers. Westbrook is now 2-of-24 3PM in his last three contests.
Tonight, this inconsistency must be eschewed vs. the DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento Kings. While Karl-Anthony Towns (29 pts, 17 rebs) gave OKC fits, DeMarcus Cousins may pose an even greater challenge.
During Sacramento's 116-101 Nov. 23 home victory against the Thunder, Cousins exploded for 36 pts, and 13 rebs. Overall, the mercurial, yet preternaturally gifted pivot averages 28 ppg (#6 NBA), 10 rpg (#13), and four assists per contest.
Across the board, you’d be hard pressed to find a more complete stat-line than Cousins’. In addition to his main three categories, the versatile seven-footer shoots 37% 3PA (69 makes in 39 games) and 77% FTA (9.5 attempts per).
Certainly, these All-NBA numbers prompted team owner Vivek Ranadive to announce his intention to extend Cousins’ existing deal this summer for a staggering $200 Million under the league’s designated player extension clause.
With prospects of a massive payday fresh in DeMarcus’ mind, Oklahoma City would do well to spoil his more immediate plans by scheming for his unparalleled inside/outside potency.
As the Thunder allow a league-worst 33% FGA’s at the rim, it may be in OKC’s best interest to encourage the Cousins outside shot. Further, a spirited effort from Oklahoma City, especially on the interior, would go a long way in balacing their season series with the Kings.
- OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (24-17) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-23)
- Time: 9:00 PM ET
- Venue: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento CA
- Television: CSCA, FSOK, NBA LP
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Frustrate DeMarcus Cousins mentally and physically
- Showcase renewed team energy
- Establish physical dominance in the paint
- Limit reckless Westbrook three-pointers
- Exhibit discipline in the half-court offense
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Overall, the Thunder has won three-of-four. Yet, in that aforementioned Nov. road meeting vs. Sacramento, OKC was scorched from deep (12-of-28 three-pointers allowed) and bullied in the paint —54-40.
Obviously, Cousins’ effective play spearheaded his team’s glaring all-around edge. Though what definitively swung the pendulum from Oklahoma City’s grasp was the untrammeled success of secondary (Gay 17 pts, Collison 21 pts) and tertiary (McLemore 9 pts, Koufos, 9 pts, Temple 8 pts, Lawson 8 pts) Kings players.
Generally, a team will struggle to find victory when allowing a monstrous Cousins outing AND 55 points from the likes of Temple, Koufos, Lawson, McLemore, and Collison.
To avoid a repeat, the Thunder must commit to a night of strong defensive execution.
At the midway point of the season, Sacramento is still avidly battling for the Western Conference’s eighth, and final, playoff spot. Although, following a four-game winning streak, the Kings have dropped six-of-eight to find themselves a half-game removed from the post-season picture.
While several of those missteps have come against elite squads, the tenor of continued losing cannot bode well for Sacramento’s locker-room morale.
Most recently, LeBron James and Cleveland foiled the Kings’ attempt to regain momentum. Dave Joerger’s unit was overmatched 120-108 by a well-balanced Cavalier grouping.
One bright spot from that loss was DeMarcus Cousins’ (26) and Rudy Gay’s (23) combined 49-point eruption. However, the NBA’s fifth-worst defense showed profound lapses in wake of Cleveland’s non-stop offensive barrage.
Tonight’s matchup vs. OKC is a pivotal marker along Sacramento’s quest to eradicate an eleven-season playoff drought. As such, look for the Kings to come out with intent urgency on their home floor.
INJURY REPORTS/PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
Both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings are injury free heading into tonight’s contest.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Darren Collison
- Shooting Guard: Garrett Temple
- Small Forward: Anthony Tolliver
- Power Forward: Rudy Gay
- Center: DeMarcus Cousins
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -1.5
The Vegas books list Oklahoma City as a slight favorite in their second meeting of the season with the Sacramento Kings. Conversely, our partners at numberFire give OKC a sound 69% chance of knotting the score with their Western Conference rival.
While Oklahoma City plays with greater pace, and allows fewer points than Sacramento, the Kings will look to counter with DeMarcus Cousins’ bruising versatility. OKC holds a decided edge in rebounding, and overall efficency; however, Sacramento’s arguably deeper lineup will attempt to replicate a strong enterprise that prompted a Nov. 23rd upset.
Though the Kings trend toward the NBA’s bottom-half in assists, Sacramento amassed 26 assists, while compiling a notable 46/42/94 shooting split in its earlier mastery of Oklahoma City.
Clearly, as stated throughout this preview, the Thunder will require a greater defensive effort vs. the Kings to remedy the team’s previous shortcomings.
Oklahoma City is 9-11 away from Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Sacramento Kings are 8-11 at home, and 11-13 vs. conference opposition.