The Oklahoma City Thunder have had a couple of nights off to address their overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks and to get ready for their next game against the talented and tough Sacramento Kings. Don’t be fooled by the win/loss record of the Kings though and write them off at your own peril. The Thunder only need look at the past few outings of their opponent to see that Sacramento will not be a walk over. The Kings narrowly went down to the New York Knicks after beating the Milwaukee Bucks, and will be bringing an in-form DeMarcus Cousins to town.
Cousins has had back to back 32 point games and has also added double digit rebounds in both contests. Against the Knicks he was just 2 assists shy of racking up a triple double, and the Thunder are going to need to find a way to stop the dynamic big man if they want to come away with a win and stay in contention for the Western Conference 1st seed. While Kendrick Perkins is getting closer to a return, he won’t be back for this one, meaning players like rookie Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison will all be called upon to play an important role.
On the flip side of the coin, the Kings are going to have to find a way to slow down the NBA’s scoring leader and experts pick for the MVP award – Kevin Durant. While he was unable to lead the Thunder to a win over the Mavericks, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Durant put up 43 points and added 5 rebounds and 6 assists, but couldn’t get it going down the stretch – doing most of his damage in the first half of the game. He will be matched up by Rudy Gay who has put together a very solid season since arriving at the Sacramento Kings. Gay is one of the only swingmen with the strength, length and athleticism to make life difficult for Durant and that will have to be his focus.
The Kings will also rely heavily on Isaiah Thomas who has been brilliant this year and has to be in talks for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Thomas gets the Kings going, pushing the tempo and pressuring the opposition on both ends of the floor. Whether Russell Westbrook plays or not, this is going to be one of the best matchups on the night. Reggie Jackson, Isaiah Thomas and potentially Westbrook makes for a handful of highlight plays, but more importantly whoever gets the upper hand in the head to head position battle, could determine who walks away with the W.
Although no game is a given, the Thunder will be wanting to rectify the issues that plagued them against the Mavericks. Guarding the three point shot, rebounding the basketball and limiting turnovers will be keys to the game and if they can get that right – and cool off Cousins – the Thunder should grab win #53. Thunder 112, Kings 88.