After one of the more bizarre finishes to a game ended up in a Kings victory against the Raptors on Sunday night, the Kings are back in action on Wednesday, taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that found itself on the wrong side of a game winner just the night before. Oklahoma brings to town a young core surrounded by ultra-talented point guard Russell Westbrook, who is more Sherman tank than he is actually human. Under second year coach Billy Donovan, the Thunder are still only 15 games into figuring out a team identity after losing Kevin Durant this offseason and their play at times indicates that. Hurray for up-and-down teams with mercurial All-Star talents! Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Wednesday, November 23rd; 7:30 pm PST
Where: Golden 1 Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 am
Something to Consider:
Breaking Down the Thunder: This will be the first look that Kings fans will have at the Oklahoma City Thunder and the gaping, Kevin Durant shaped hole they bring with them. The Thunder are a team that lives and dies solely on the back of Russell Westbrook, a player with more to do with his teams wins and losses than just about anyone in the league save for James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins. Westbrook is the heart, lungs, brain, skeletal, muscular and vascular systems for the Thunder and the more you control what he does on the court, the better chances you have at a win Wednesday night. This is no secret, and yet, he’s averaging 31.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game this season. No need to double check that, I made sure; yes, Russell Westbrook is .2 rebounds a game away from averaging a triple double this season (he also obviously leads his team in all three of those categories). But what about the Thunder offense as a whole? Well, at 105.5 points per game, they’re the 11th highest scoring team in the league and are sixth in the league in pace. They’re 10th in the league in three point attempts at 25.9 a game, but 21st in percentage at a 33.8% average clip. They’re fifth in the league in two point attempts and ninth in two point percentage, shooting an average of 49.7% a game from inside the arc and while the team is a top 10 team in assists, they’re also the worst in the league in turnovers, where the cough up the ball an average of 16.8 times a game. So, they take a lot of threes without being great from distance, are much more efficient from inside the arc, have good assist numbers but are hindered by the large amount of turnovers they create for themselves. This team’s offense is exactly like Russell Westbrook!
On the defensive side of the ball, the Kings will have their chances to win this game. The Thunder hold their opponents to seventh least amount of threes attempted and the fifth least amount of twos, while holding opponents to shooting 35.5% from deep, but giving up the 13th highest percentage from inside the arc at 48.8%. Even with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter pushing him around inside, DeMarcus is going to have his chance at some big time points, especially considering that the Thunder foul more than all but six other teams in the league. The Thunder do have some real positive attributes on the defensive end where they’re sixth in the league in blocks at 5.3 a game, and ninth in the league in steals, with 7.9 a contest. The Thunder are also one of the better rebounding teams in the league, where they pull down the fourth most offensive boards and third most defensive boards a game. So, if the Kings are gonna have a shot in this, its going to be on the backs of Boogie getting some big guys in foul trouble, Rudy attacking wherever he remembers Kevin Durant being on the court and mostly, by trying to contain the output of Russell Westbrook.
Prediction: The Kings are going to have to erect Plexiglass barriers for the safety of everyone in the lower bowl after Russell Westbrook decides to do his best Rajon Rondo impression early on, and ends up hospitalizing 47 people sitting in the lower bowl with some less than accurate passing. As the battle in the low post between DeMarcus Cousins and Steven Adams rages in the first half, the ensuing booms and screaming for foul calls will only shake the survivors in the lower bowl further; their thousand yard stare looking past the game on the court, and into the carnage of what Russell Westbrook had done to their friends and loved ones, all over again. The game will get tight down the stretch until Dave Joerger realizes the Thunder are playing without Kevin Durant, literally playing 4 on 5, and after trying to wrestle Omri into a Thunder jersey to “help them out” during a timeout, he’ll settle for Rudy Gay scoring 11 straight points with no one around. Russell Westbrook will just scoff at the bad defense that non-Kevin Durant is playing. “That’s why I’m the leader of this team”, he’ll think.
Kings 109, Thunder 104