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Kings vs. Thunder Preview: Grudge Match

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Can the Kings clinch the season series against the Thunder?

Kimani Okearah

For whatever reason, the Sacramento Kings have seemingly had the Oklahoma City Thunder’s number this year. The Kings shocked the Thunder 131-120 for their first win of the season, and then held them off at home exactly one month ago 117-114. The Thunder have managed to surge to the 3rd spot in the West at 19-10, but they’re 0-2 against the Kings and aren’t going to take this team for granted this time. The Kings meanwhile are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 27 point trouncing at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both teams are going to be fighting tooth and nail to get this one, and hopefully the home team comes out victorious.

Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: Wednesday, December 19th, 7:00 PM PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

TV: NBCSCA, NBA TV

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The Kings haven’t had too many extended home stretches this season, but tonight’s game marks the beginning of a tough three game homestand in which the Kings welcome the Thunder, Grizzlies and Pelicans to town. All three teams are playoff hopefuls, and for the Kings to go 2-1 or even 3-0 would be huge. None of the games are on back to backs, and Sacramento should be relatively well rested with the starters not playing much in the blowout loss in Minnesota on Monday. None of these games will be easy though, with perhaps the toughest opponent coming in tonight in Oklahoma City.

The Kings success against the Thunder this season has been thanks to some very strong starts. Sacramento has won the first quarter in both games and Iman Shumpert was key in both of them. Shumpert is averaging 9.2 points a game this year, but against the Thunder has put up 26 and 23 points, his highest totals of the season. It remains to be seen if the Kings will even have Shumpert’s services tonight as he has missed the last two games with a hip pointer suffered in last Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

The key for the Kings will be to limit Oklahoma City’s supporting cast. In both of the previous matchups this season, Thunder starts Russell Westbrook and Paul George both scored plenty but didn’t get much help. In particular, backup guard Dennis Schroder has been awful against the Kings despite being pretty good on the season. Against the Kings, Schroder has averaged 10 points a game on a putrid 24.2% from the field and only 18.2% from three.

The Kings managed to beat the Thunder last month despite star De’Aaron Fox shooting just 1-10 from the field and scoring only 6 points. The Kings will need Fox to perform better than that to have a good chance to win, and they’ll need more big performances from guys like Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica.

The Thunder are currently the NBA’s top-ranked defensive team, featuring size and length at every position. Their early season struggles seem to be behind them and the Kings should not take their previous success for granted; This will be a tough matchup against a good team and the Kings will need to play their A-game and start this homestand on the right foot.

Prediction

Iman Shumpert decides to drop a 50 piece on the Thunder... in the first quarter alone. Marvin Bagley gets so much adrenaline cheering from the bench that his bone bruise is forgotten and he enters and he comes in and drops a triple-double as well. Doug Christie gets so hyped that he leaves the broadcasting booth, puts on a uniform and sinks a couple threes while shutting down Russell Westbrook. Mayor Steinberg gives every fan in attendance a key to the city.

Kings 169, Thunder 41