Start time - 7:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
The Thunder have quietly put together a nice win streak by taking care of business. The Lakers did not have LeBron James and were a weakened team that the Thunder could contend with. The Thunder’s young talent hung on against the Spurs before blowing the dysfunctional Pelicans out of the water.
It is a positive omen; good teams know how to win games even when the team is not playing particularly well. Shai’s shooting was off in New Orleans but he was still able to accumulate an efficient 24 points by constantly dragging himself to the line.
Luguentz Dort deserves a lot of praise for providing a lift to the Thunder when they needed it most. Dort scored an efficient 18 points in the first half and led the way for Oklahoma City. While his teammates were scuffling, Lu took on the scoring burden and performed really well. He has often been a man for the big moments and it was no different on Wednesday night.
The Kings are a banana peel for the Thunder. Sacramento have a young, talented roster who can run up the score and put the Thunder away if they find a rhythm early in the game. The key for Oklahoma City will be stopping the two-man game between De’Aaron Fox and Richaun Holmes.
Fox and Holmes have excellent chemistry and a large portion of the Kings’ offense is built on the pick and roll. The threat of Fox as a driver and of Holmes as a roll-man brings others like Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes into play. It is important to break that connection and force Fox into taking a lot of shots. Break the pick and roll and Sacramento’s offense is severely limited.
Fox sets the table all by himself with Tyrese Haliburton out and the Kings’ offense will suffer if Fox focuses on getting his own at the expense of his teammates. I would expect to see Luguentz Dort facing up with De’Aaron on nearly every single possession down the floor. Dort has a lot of success with fast, agile guards and should have the lateral quickness to match up with one of the fastest players in the league.
The Thunder will be encouraged by the Kings’ porous defense. Sacramento rank 24th in the league in defensive rating this season and were last in DefRTG last season. The numbers do not tell the full story. Sacramento are just listless defensively.
San Antonio killed the Kings’ in the last game by cutting backdoor repeatedly and finding easy looks at the rim. The backdoor cut is one of the simplest movements in basketball and Sacramento seemingly had no way of denying this action.
Coach Mark Daigneault has ran a motion offense for the Thunder during his tenure as head coach. The system needs to be cranked up against the Kings; backdoor cuts, Iverson cuts and curls off screens could be great ways to generate easy, efficiency offense.
Oklahoma City are finally riding a wave of confidence and are now faced with a difficult challenge. Putting together a few wins is entirely possible for all of the teams in the league, the real challenge is sustaining that win streak and maintaining a high standard of play. Complacency will cost the Thunder if they do not take Sacramento seriously.