Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (30-10), Sacramento Kings (14-24)
Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (97) def. Sacramento Kings (95)
Kevin Durant is currently on an absolute tear and will be coming off a career high 54 point outing against the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder are at home again and will be looking to continue their homecourt dominance against the Kings who are in the middle of a six game road trip where they have gone 1-2 so far with a narrow loss to the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday.
This won’t be an easy game for the Thunder as the Kings are much better than their 14-24 record shows. Since acquiring Rudy Gay and Derick Williams and along with the all star level of play from DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have been competitive. The last time these two teams met, the Thunder were lucky to hold on for a two point win and Sacramento are better since then.
Oklahoma City Thunder are again without Russell Westbrook and in the past couple of games, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson have been solidly supporting the outstanding play from Kevin Durant. The Thunder will be well rested and looking to come out of the gates quickly to establish an advantage. Sacramento on the other hand had a tough battle last night and no rest as they try to tame one of the best homecourt teams in the league and the best player in the game right now.
Kevin Durant vs. Rudy Gay
I am not sure there is a tougher task in basketball right now than guarding Kevin Durant. Rudy Gay does have the strength and athleticism to make it very difficult for Durant to score though and if Gay can keep the ball out of his hands, then that is a start. While Durant is probably still going to score 30 or more, if Gay can neutralise him to some extent and score 20 or more of his won, then that is a solid matchup for the Kings. Durant is very effective and efficient though and won’t need a great number of shots to change the game. Gay is quite inefficient and if he gets locked into a personal battle against the scoring champ, it could be detrimental to the Kings overall game.
DeMarcus Cousins vs Serge Ibaka / Kendrick Perkins
It is hard to suggest any big man that is playing better than DeMarcus Cousins is. He has won the NBA Player of the Week award and is turning out solid production each and every night. He is athletic and strong which is why the Thunder are going to have to pay his some respect and do everything they can to keep him out of the paint and to limit his touches. Ibaka has the athleticism to make it difficult and Perkins has the body and strength to move Cousins off the block. The Kings rely heavily on Cousins though, so he is going to get a steady diet of the rock, the Thunder have to be ready and just make it as hard as they can if they want to take the advantage. Ibaka also needs to continue his impressive scoring output and follow that up with some rebounding and shot blocking to start the Oklahoma City Thunder transition game.
Reggie Jackson vs Isaiah Thomas
Both these young point guards are very quick, very smart and very talented. They are both offensively minded (and gifted) which should see an exciting matchup. Reggie Jackson has been doing a very solid job against opposing point guards and has been hitting the scoreboard, taking some of the pressure off of Kevin Durant. He will need to do this again to ensure a balanced attack and so the Kings can’t sag off and help double team Durant. Thomas has been sensational this year for the Kings which is why they have been happy to have him run the team on the floor. He has been putting up very good numbers and is always a threat on the offensive end, Jackson will need to pay him due respect in this battle of the most improved players.
It is hard to see the Sacramento Kings knocking off the Thunder at home, but it can be done. Durant is in scorching form though and it would take a great effort defensively by the Kings or an off shooting night from Durant to stop him scoring another 30+ points. The battle should be won and lost in the transition game as the Thunder look to force turnovers and get out and score off them. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be as much of a handful for the Thunder as Durant is for the Kings, but in the end, the Thunder should have too many weapons and the crowd will be too loud to give this one up. I think the Thunder take the W over a valiant Kings side 106 – 94.
Who do you think takes the points in this one? Let us know in the comments below!