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Kings vs Thunder Preview: Every. Game. Counts.

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A four game winning streak is on the line in Oklahoma City.

Kimani Okearah

Hope is a delicious, dangerous elixir for Kings fans, and after denying ourselves even a few sweet sips for the entirety of the 2019-2020 season, we’re about to dive face first into a giant vat of Grant Napear-esque positivity. The Kings have won 9 of their last 14 games, including two victories over the Los Angeles Clippers, and wins over the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs (we’re not going to discuss who may or may not have played in those games, because that doesn’t fit our optimistic narrative right now, thank you), and they trail the Memphis Grizzlies by just 3.5 games for the 8th seed in the West. Tonight, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and the rest of the superteam, just average-aged have a tough contest against Oklahoma City Thunder, a squad fighting their way up the standings in the upper echelon of the Western Conference.

When: Thursday, February 27th, 5:00 PST

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Oklahoma City flourishes on the defensive side of the floor, especially on the perimeter. Chris Paul’s career has been revitalized after escaping the James Harden experiment, and his tenacity, paired with the length and energy of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, has resulted in one of the most aggressive guard-heavy defenses in the league. Billy Donovan’s entire philosophy is focused on taking away the easiest and most efficient shots around the court, as the Thunder allow the second-fewest free throws in the league at 18.6 and the fifth-lowest three-point percentage, with their opponents making 34.3% of their long-balls. The Kings have certainly felt that impact in their two contests against OKC this season, averaging only 10.5 free throws per game (9.7 below average) and hitting just 19 of their 70 (27.1%) of their three-point attempts, 9.4% below their season-long standard. Luke Walton is going to have to invent some clever mechanics to get De’Aaron Fox to the charity stripe, as well as find some open looks for Sacramento’s snipers on Thursday evening.

The Kings can also take some solace in the fact that they’ve already beaten their Western Conference rival once this season, and they didn’t steal that victory by shooting the lights out or by living at the free throw line. Instead, they fed the Thunder some of their own medicine: incredibly stringent defense. Sacramento held Oklahoma to just 93 points on 43% shooting in their mid-December win, including the trio of Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander making only 12 of their 33 field goal attempts. Walton could even consider starting Kent Bazemore in place of Nemanja Bjelica, as Bjelly struggles to stop the quicker Gallinari, and Bazemore matches up much more cleanly with the Thunder’s guard-heavy lineups.

Prediction

The Kings continue their undefeated streak in The Kings Herald era. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Harry Giles all give me a shout-out in the post-game for my season-long encouragement, and Luke Walton finally talks about playing with pace in a positive manner.

Kings 101 – Thunder 97