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Kings vs Thunder Preview: Growing Pains on the Great Plains

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As a large road trip looms, the Kings make a quick pit-stop in OKC for a rematch against Westbrook, Paul, Anthony, Aquaman and Co.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings have rolled their wagons into Oklahoma City and are looking for vittles and nice competitive game of basketball. On one hand, the Kings are now the worst team in the West coming into Monday night’s game against a 5th seeded Thunder that features the reigning league MVP and two other major stars. On the other hand, the Kings did beat this Thunder team in their last standoff back in November, and it was one of their better games of this season. Here’s praying lightning strikes twice!

Also, in times like ours and on a day that should be recognized and celebrated with more collective pride and passion:

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When: Monday, January 15th; 5:00 pm PST

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena; Oklahoma City, OK

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Wild, Wild, West(brook): Seeing as how the last time we faced off against the Thunder, we were a solid 10 games into our season, I think a refresher course is needed on just what the Thunder do to succeed in the top heavy Western Conference. Losers in three of their last four games, a team stacked with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony primarily depend on their defense to win games. In what was for me a surprising turn this season, their scoring has rather disappointing for the talent they’ve amassed; 18th in the league at only 104.3 points per game. The defensive side of things is succeeding in ways I really didn’t think probable though, with opponents scoring only 101.3 points per game, the third best mark in the league. They’re sixth in the league in blocks, second in the league in steals and they force opponents into the second most turnovers in the NBA. The Kings seem to shy away from teams with physical defenses, and for a Thunder squad who fouls the ninth most in the NBA, the Kings are in for some bumps and bruises tomorrow if they get the courage to maneuver toward the rim.

On the offensive end, the Thunder are inefficient at best. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are the only two players on the Thunder who play over 15 minutes a game and shoot better than 35% from deep, the team as a whole shoots sub 36% from three (21st in the NBA) and sub 50% from inside the arc (18th in the NBA) and are the second worst free throw shooting team in the NBA at 71%. This team still completely and utterly lives and dies by the hands of Russell Westbrook. If you thought that adding two All-Stars to the roster would somehow shake Westbrook, move him into sharing the shots a bit more, or snatching less boards... You were as wrong as I was. Coming into Monday night’s game, Russ is averaging 25.1 points, 10 assists and 9.6 rebounds. Nothing, I repeat nothing, has changed for Russell Westbrook. He just got a couple of role players upgrades this year.

For the Kings to have a chance in this, the big guys are going to have to show out. A Steven Adams and Carmelo Anthony front court are a dangerous mix for anyone to defend and score on, but Skal and Willie have to be the guys tonight. Shying away from contact, getting rattled by the size and strength of Arthur Curry Adams in particular just won’t work. The Thunder are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, and shutting down second opportunities for guys who are more famous in their careers for taking shots then making them would help the Kings cause. De’Aaron Fox is going to be a Popsicle stick in a wood chipper tonight, but getting to the rim and getting literally anyone in the starting lineup in foul trouble would be a massive help as well. We’re getting to the tough part of the season for many of these rookies have played a full college season already and the playing time is only going to increase for our young ones. But look at it this way: if they’re better than fans think; success! If they’re worse; Doncic! Success!

I ABSOLUTELY KNOW THIS WILL HAPPEN, EVERYONE PLEASE BELIEVE ME: The Thunder made the mistake of bringing six-shooters to a tank fight; the young guns do the majority of the damage tonight on the backs of De’Aaron Fox and Bogi. Fox gets the drop on a stats happy Westbrook, and Bogdanovic wheels and deals to Skal and Willie all night and the Kings. Papagiannis gets 6 minutes somewhere in there, and we all celebrate the sounds of that tank growing louder in the distance!

Kings: 101, Thunder: 97