Tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma is the last home game for the Kings before the trade deadline. And, although I don’t believe the Kings will be involved in any serious player movement, it is possible this will be the last chance for our current lineup to prove that the Lakers and Hornets wins weren’t flukes.
This will be the 2nd of four games against the Thunder. The Kings and the Thunder played back on December 17th in OK City with the home team prevailing 102-87. The game was close for 3 quarters before the Thunder ran away with the 4th quarter 30-20. The Kings got as close as 6pts in the final quarter before the Thunder went on an 8-0 run and put the game away.
Both teams had identical fast break points (10) and offensive rebounds (14), but the Thunder dominated the points in the paint 56-48 and had 2 fewer turnovers (13-15). The Kings bench of Casspi, Garcia, Jeter, Dalembert, Landry, Jackson, and Head combined for only 19 pts and were outscored by 13 pts by the Thunders bench. Tyreke was the Kings leading scorer with 22, and Beno and DeMarcus each had 19. But, JT and Donte were held to 8 pts on 4-12 shooting. Cousins was the leading rebounder with 15 and JT was 2nd with 8. To go along with his great points and rebounds stats, DeMarcus had some less than stellar ones also, like 5 turnovers, being blocked 3 times, and he fouled out of the game with 3 minutes left.
Oklahoma started Green, Durant, and Ibaka on the frontline with Collison playing 22 minutes off the bench at center. Four of the 5 starters and 2 of the reserves scored in double figures with Durant scoring 24 and Westbrook scoring 21. Ball movement was the Key to OK City’s success, with Westbrook and Maynor contributing 6 and 5 assists respectively, and Green and Durant contributing 5 assists each. More importantly, 15 of their 21 assists were at the rim where the Thunder shot 26-33 (78.8%) on 16 assisted baskets. In contrast the Kings shot 21-30 (70%) on 7 assists. The Kings also committed 6 more Personal Fouls; leading to 10 more FTA’s and 6 more made FT’s. And between the baskets at the rim and the FT’s, you have the Thunders margin of victory.
Oklahoma City is in 1st place in the Northwest Division 3.5 games ahead of Utah and Denver who are tied for 2nd. The Thunder have a record of 33-18, and are 18-8 at home and 15-10 on the road. Over their last 10 games they are 6-4 overall and 3-2 on the road.
Both the Kings and the Thunder play at a similar pace, and the Kings are actually slightly better defensively. While the Thunder are percentage points better in Defensive Rebounding Rate, Steals, and Blocks, the Kings allow 0.6 pts less a game on better 3pt defense. The Thunder are the far better offensive team and rank 5th best at 104.6 ppg compared to the Kings who rank 5th worst at 97.3 ppg. OKC’s FG% at 45.9% is only slightly better than the Kings 44.2% and the two team’s 3P% are almost identical (33.6% OKC, 33.5% Kings). The main difference in the scoring comes from the Thunders FT shooting which ranks 1st at 82.8% and they are 2nd only to Denver at getting to the FT line. The Thunder average 30.3 trips to the FT line per game and make 25.1. Which is why, even though they have the 6th worse 3P% (Kings are 4th worst), the Thunder have the 8th best TS%. While the Kings who have the 4th worst FT%, also have the 3rd worst TS%.
Nenad Krstic who missed the last game due to a back injury will be starting at center. Krstic averages 7.6 pts / 4.6 rebs in 22 mpg. Jeff Green who averages 15 pts / 5.8 rebs, and Kevin Durant who leads the league in scoring with 29 ppg and leads the Thunder in rebounding, complete the frontcourt. Thabo Sefolosha a defensive SG who averages 5 pts / 5 rebs, and Russell Westbrook the 2nd leading scorer for the Thunder at 22.5 ppg make up the backcourt. Westbrook also leads the team in assists at 8.6 apg. James Harden last year’s #1 pick and Serge Ibaka are the primary reserves averaging 25.9 mpg each. While Eric Maynor is the backup PG averaging 4.5 pts / 2.4 assists in 14 mpg. Durant, Harden and Maynor are the top 3pt shooting threats.
A couple of stats from the SSSI, the Thunder have scored at least 100 pts in their last 7 games, and the Kings have allowed 100 pts in 4 of their last 10 games including their last 3. OK City is 27-7 in games where they’ve score 100+ pts and they are 18-6 against sub-.500 teams. Throw in the fact that the Thunder has improved their 3pt shooting to 44% in their 4 games in February, and things don’t look promising for the Kings.
Here’s an interesting quote;
“Teams always load the paint up on us,” he said. “Statistically we don’t have a great three-point shooting percentage, so the strategy is most teams will force you to take perimeter shots. One of the things is, we don’t give into that strategy. We attack the basket. We get to the free throw line. I feel confident that we’re going to make shots if it’s the right play or the right pass or the right spacing and those are the ones you drive hard and draw a defender then kick it out to the open shooter. Those are the threes that we make. The bad ones are the forced ones, the one-on-one shots.”
No, that’s not from Coach Westphal, although it would seem to apply to the Kings. It’s actually from Scott Brooks coach of the Thunder. So as daunting a task as stopping the Thunders offense might seem, Brooks has laid out the plan for us. The Kings need to load the paint, stop penetration, and cutoff the passing lanes in the paint. We can’t allow the Thunder to get 16 easy baskets at the rim. But, at the same time that’s exactly what the Kings need to do. Attack the paint and get easy baskets for our bigs. The team that does that the best, Wins. Go Kings.