Oklahoma City will play Sacramento on the first night of a back to back. The Thunder will play the Kings at home before travelling to Milwaukee for a game where the Thunder can fell a giant. However, the Thunder needs to keep their focus on the upcoming game and doing all the little things well. The Kings have gone through another season of mixed results but OKC cannot let this knowledge factor in their mind-set, all it takes is for one player to get hot and change the momentum of the game. A win here will start to bring the Thunder into the race for home-court, OKC sit just two games back from Houston in the fourth seed and the team currently holds the tie-breaker over the Utah Jazz. Home-court is a real possibility for the Thunder and it should be something that Oklahoma City push for, it can be an important factor in the play-offs. The game starts at 8:00 (EST)
Three Points to Note for the Thunder:
- Ferguson Firing - Terrance Ferguson has really struggled on offence over the last few games. The main issue for Terrance has been his passivity on offence, he has passed up open shots in favour of passing the ball to his team-mate. There has been a reticence to shoot the ball from Ferguson which has stunted his impact for the Thunder as the opposing teams does not respect his offensive game, it means the other team can double defensive efforts on other players. Against the Bulls, Ferguson seemed to wake up as he went 3-5 from downtown and accumulated three assists. Ferguson was aggressive with the ball and forced the defence to actually defend him. It is the best version of Terrance Ferguson which we have seen this season, it is also the most aggressive that Ferguson has been this season. It is important for Terrance to stay aggressive in his game for the rest of the schedule as it directly benefits the Thunder, it will mean that OKC does not have to carry a person on offence.
- Focus - OKC built a huge lead against the Chicago Bulls and then promptly threw away that lead in the third quarter. Oklahoma City were outscored by nineteen points in the third as the offence went cold and Chicago continually got buckets by out-rebounding the Thunder. The Thunder have not managed to keep consistent focus across the season, especially when it comes to playing against sub 0.500 teams. OKC have played up to the level against good teams and down to bad teams. For Oklahoma City to win fifty games, the Thunder have to win games against bad teams and maintain a high level of performance. Luckily, Oklahoma City dug deep and ground out a win against the Chicago Bulls in the fourth quarter. It was really good to see the Thunder find the focus to get the victory down the stretch but this has to carry over into tonight’s game against Sacramento. Oklahoma City need to play with consistency and focus for all forty eight minutes against the Kings so that the team continues to build good habits for the post-season.
- Difficult Run of Games - Oklahoma City have been exceptional this season but there has been a few doubts about the Thunder’s ability to win games against quality teams, the type of teams who have legitimate aspirations to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That fabled trophy means so much to every single team in the league as it is the sole honour available to win, this is not college basketball where reaching the Final Four is considered to be an accomplishment. For the elite teams, the season is defined by winning a championship. In games against this calibre of team, Oklahoma City have struggled to overcome the talent differential. Over the next six games, OKC will play Milwaukee, Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers. Those three teams are all expected to make the Conference Finals and have versatile, deep rosters. These games can be considered as an indicator for whether the Thunder can succeed in the post-season, a victory in one of these games will be important for the Thunder players in terms of building confidence going forward.
- Reinforcements - The Sacramento Kings have made a few missteps in free agency over the last few years when it comes to signing veterans. It has been common for these veterans to play for the team for a short while before eventually moving onto greener pastures. The same cycle occurred for the Kings this summer with Trevor Ariza who was moved before the trade deadline to the Portland Trailblazers. The Kings received Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver from Portland, the return was purely salary cap filler but both players have done wonders in leading the locker-room. Tolliver and Bazemore are both well-travelled journeyman vets who know how to develop as a pro in the league. The influx of veteran talent has been a steadying influence on the locker room and the Kings have gone 8-4 since the acquisition of Tolliver and Bazemore.
- Injury Report - Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes are both unavailable for the game against the Thunder. Bagley and Holmes have been key parts of the Kings’ front-court and will be a huge loss against the Thunder. The Kings have heavily relied upon Harry Giles during this recent stretch, a young big man who has a lot of upside but is currently working through the typical young big problems.
It was reported by Royce Young of ESPN that Luguentz Dort has sixteen service days left on his two-way G-League deal. This figure has been previously unknown due to the Thunder’s organisation remaining tight-lipped about the contract status of their players. I fully expect Lu to receive a main contract roster within the next few weeks. HIs service days will run out on March 28 and for Dort to be eligible for the post-season, his contract will need to be done before this date.