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Kings vs Thunder Preview: Kings Hoping to Strike At the Heart of the Thunder

With a favorite for MVP and a playoff team in the building for Sunday’s game against the Thunder, the Kings will have to muster up all the strength to come out with a victory.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

After a walloping from the the defending champs, the Kings are coming into Sunday night facing an Oklahoma City Thunder team fresh off a loss to the suddenly surging Timberwolves. For those who are ready for the tank to start rolling into Sacramento, the Thunder are potential trade partners as well as the evening’s foes and so Sunday night’s game gives an opportunity for fans to sneak a peek at what they’ve got in their cupboard to share in exchange for a gently used Rudy Gay, or a right out of the box Ben McLemore. For those still hoping the Kings make a run for the final playoff spot, keep in mind tonight that the Thunder are currently the 7th seed in the Western Conference, and are also seven games over .500. Westbrook is Brodie for The Wire! Steven Adams is Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones! Kyle Singler is from those dreams you’ve repressed! Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: Sunday, January 15th, 6:00 pm PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The Thunder Roles: Tonight’s game is all about Westbrook. Oklahoma City goes as he goes, and if he’s still pissed from their previous loss to the Wolves, the Kings are in for a long night. Averaging 30.8 points, 10.5 assists and 10.7 rebounds per game, Russ is the engine, transmission, battery and tires for this team, so the Kings priority #1 tonight is guard the thr- no, sorry, old habit of mine. The Kings #1 priority tonight is containing Russell Westbrook. Now, that might be a bit like saying the #1 way of cutting your family’s energy costs is to invent cold fusion but, in the case of altering Westbrook’s game to fit your strategy, it can be done. The Thunder are the second worst three point shooting team in the league at 32.9%, and Westbrook is currently at 31.9%. Allowing him the opportunities to decide to shoot from deep, and deterring his drives to the basketball early with a hard foul or two might getting Westbrook into pissy mode, but that brand of basketball doesn’t always translate into good, winning basketball for the Thunder. Russell is also leading his team in turnovers at 5.4 a game, a category in which the’re the sixth worst team in the league, averaging 14.9 a contest. Angry Westbrook with something to prove is very often sloppy Westbrook, so engaging him, forcing him into three’s and staying in front of him as he barrels towards the rim might prove to get him out of rhythm and the Thunder into trouble.

Lightning Strikes (Twice): In case you’ve decided to tune out this game and put a checkmark in the loss column before tip-off this Sunday evening, remember that the Kings have already beaten the Thunder this season, and did so in convincing fashion on a night where the Thunder’s point guard was one assist from a triple double. In that game on November 23rd, the Kings beat the Thunder 116-101, with Boogie dropping 36 and 13 and with he, Rudy and Darren all dropping in three long balls to boot. If the Kings look to emulate the success of that game they can #1 see post above. The defended Westbrook to the tune of 7-18 from the field, 1-5 from three and forced him to do his damage from the free throw line where he was 16-19. The second thing the Kings can do is get their force their bigs into foul trouble early. DeMarcus has been fairly adept at putting the other teams big on the bench early in the game over the course of the season, but in the last few games it has been DeMarcus sitting early with foul trouble. Find a way to get the ball in a good spot for DeMarcus to score on one end, and stay away from many of his poking little touch fouls early on will set the Kings up well. The third item will be to have a game that also features Darren Collison and Rudy Gay each playing at a high level. If Rudy wants off this team as bad as we think he does, there is no better time to have a great game than right now. November 23rd saw him go for 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, with 3-6 from deep, and that would be right around the line the Thunder would be hoping he’d give them on a nightly basis. You can do it, Rudy. You can be the hero of your own story! Darren Collison was likewise a big factor in the game last time around, something that hasn’t been said very much over the last 10 games. 21 points, 6 assists, 3-5 from deep and 58% from the floor. Lastly, the Kings need to get buckets at the rim. The Thunder allow 47.7 points in the paint a game, tied for last in the NBA with the Lakers. Yes, they’re 10th in blocks, but they’re also the 7th worst fouling team in the league. Pump fake, double clutch, yelling “Look over there!” if they have to, but the Kings can get their scoring in close or at the line, and either way is an efficient step closer to victory.

Prediction: With Rudy basically trying out for his next team tonight and the excite brimming for him like a puppy being freed from his shelter kennel, he ends up trying to do to much, and catches some heat from DeMarcus in the team huddle. After his 3rd turnover in first half DeMarcus screams at him to “Get it together!”. Thinking Boogie was screaming at him, Westbrook screams some loud obscenities at DeMarcus. Taking exception to that, DeMarcus comes down on the other end and beats Steven Adams for big dunk. DeMarcus screams at Westbrook. Westbrook then grabs the ball from the inbounder, runs down the court, by Darren Collison and skies for a big dunk. Westbrook screams at DeMarcus. DeMarcus at Westbrook. Westbrook. DeMarcus.

As Rudy half heartedly jogs through these happenings, starts to see how much DeMarcus looks like Russell, how much Russell looks like DeMarcus. Looking down at his jersey, suddenly he tell purple from blue, the letters are all jumbled! The two people yelling at each other look exactly the same! His head shoots towards his bench but wait, which one is his? Which coach is which? Where’s the trainer? Everything is the same and nothing has changed and yet, it’s all so different. Rudy feels faint. He falls, and as the black closes in around him, he whispers “stability”. Player’s with blank faces and jerseys that morph from purple to blue stand around him. His eyes stare blankly at scoreboard above him. All he sees are blanks.

All he hears is “AAAAAND OOOOONE!”

Kings: 114, Thunder: 109