The Oklahoma City Thunder will try and halt their two game losing streak when they take on the Sacramento Kings. The current road trip hasn’t been all that pleasant for the Thunder who have dropped the first two games (to Houston and Phoenix) and are now only 1 game clear of the Los Angeles Clippers (who they face after the Kings game) for the #2 seed in the Western Conference.
While Kevin Durant has been dominating games on the offensive end and now has 41 consecutive games of 25+ points, it has been the defensive struggles of the Thunder that have spoken volumes of late. After a huge win against the league leading San Antonio Spurs where they locked in defensively and really stuck to the game plan, the past two losses have seen the Thunder give up a ton of points and outside shots – hardly ideal when you are getting to the business end of the season.
This game against the Kings allows the Thunder the chance to get back on track and to get things right. Sacramento will still likely be playing without Isaiah Thomas which leaves more of the scoring burden to DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. While both are talented scorers, neither are a reliable marksmen from range which will suit the Thunder. They will have to keep an eye on Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore but the task will not be as dire as it has been in recent games.
Whether Westbrook plays or not won’t be known until just before tip off. The Thunder are managing his minutes heading in to the post season and with a must win game against the Los Angeles Clippers the following night, Westbrook might be rested in this one and utilized in the next.
Without Westbrook in the lineup, more minutes will be given to Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Caron Butler and others. These guys are really going to need to find their rhythm on both ends of the floor and also be able to create space by hitting open three’s. Defending the three point shot is just part of OKC’s problem – making them is the other. Since the All Star break, the Thunder have suffered decreased outside shooting percentage and it is starting to hurt them.
Durant will once again have his 25+ point game streak on the line as he now targets Oscar Robertson mark of 46 straight games. Not that Durant is focused on that. “I wish it was over” said Durant when asked of the streak. It is clear that scoring a lot of points is not first and foremost in the mind of the Thunder’s young star, but winning is. You can be sure that Durant is going to do everything in his power to deliver a W against the Kings. Durant has averaged 28.5ppg in the Thunder’s three games against the Kings this season – and the Thunder have taken the points in all of them.
That is one streak Durant will be hoping continues.