3 storylines to watch as OKC Thunder face Sacramento Kings for first time

OKC Thunder forward Jaylin Williams (6) and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder forward Jaylin Williams (6) and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) controls the ball against Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris (12): Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s been a whirlwind for the OKC Thunder lately as they keep surprising their counterparts. They enter Friday seeded 10th but are technically in a four-way tie with the Wolves, Clippers, and Warriors. More notably OKC is only 1.5 games out of the FIFTH seed!

Doubtful many projected this type of achievement from the Thunder but as head coach Mark Daigneault noted following their most recent win versus the Pacers, this roster is gaining confidence and my fellow Thunder fans that’s an intangible no team can game plan for!

"“I think the team is growing in confidence, and the confidence is kind of a collective confidence,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “It’s not like an individual player just playing on a ridiculous streak or anything like that. The group is gaining confidence together, and we want to be a team that the whole is better than the sum of the parts.” – Daigneault"

As the OKC Thunder prepare for their first meeting versus the Kings there are three key storylines to keep in mind.

3 storylines to watch as OKC Thunder face the Sacramento Kings

Diving into the OKC Thunder schedule this season the discrepancy of who the team has played is all over the map. They’ve already completed the season series versus both the Timberwolves and Mavericks and played the Nuggets three times.

Sacramento is one of four opponents (Warriors, Jazz, Lakers) the Thunder has the full season seasons to play. Given the standings, it offers the first storyline relevant to this contest.

Which team will extend their win streak?

As noted, the OKC Thunder has been one of the hottest teams in the West, and in the association for that matter since the calendar switched to 2023.

They’ve won four games in a row and are 7-2 in the New Year.  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on fire, Josh Giddey is coming into his own, Jalen Williams is impressing as a rookie and several supporting players are rising to the occasion.

Similarly, the Kings are on a run having amassed a five-game winning streak capitalizing on an extended home stand. Moreover, while the Thunder has faced the likes of the top-seeded Celtics, the third-place 76ers, plus upper-echelon teams like the Mavericks, Grizzlies, and Nets the Kings have feasted on lower-tier teams.

Despite the easier opponent slate, it’s important not to underestimate this Kings crew. Frankly, this is NOT the Kings’ crew of the past two decades!

By virtue of the winning streaks, both teams have benefited by moving up the ladder with the Kings pulling ahead of the parity pack to reside in third presently, while the Thunder are in a four-way tie with the Wolves, Clippers, and Warriors but hold the lowest seed of the four in 10th.

Whichever squad is victorious this evening it could impact their ladder position. Sacramento has built some distance but they also are technically tied (with the Pelicans) so a loss could drop them to fourth.

The trio of teams the Thunder is tied with arguably have the easier weekend slate. The Clippers face the Spurs and Mavericks (without Christian Wood who suffered a broken thumb).

Minnesota is idle until Saturday when they’ll play the tanking Rockets in the first of two consecutive matches (Tuesday) but will hit a rough schedule segment right after with dates versus the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Kings (x2), and Warriors.

Golden State has a tough back-to-back on tap having just lost in overtime to the Celtics and traveled to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers tonight. The Dubs will finish the week back home hosting the reeling Nets (without Kevin Durant).

OKC will need a bit of luck and a few upsets but theoretically, if they defeat the Kings while the Clippers and Warriors lose they could finish the night seeded seventh!

Utah sits sixth and has arguably the easiest slate of upcoming opponents with seven of their next eight matches on their home court. Half of those teams are sub .500 squads and two (Nets, Mavericks) are missing core contributors.

Ultimately, the OKC Thunder has a tough five-game stretch beginning tonight versus the Kings followed by the Nuggets, suddenly hot Hawks, Cavaliers, and Warriors. This quintet of matches could define the season and determine how viable OKC’s postseason hopes are. If they can go 3-2 the next stretch features nine matches featuring seven sub .500 teams.