Thunder (17-46, 4-26 road) at Sacramento Kings (14-49, 10-21 home)
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
Time: 9:00 CST
Offensive Rating: Thunder: 103.7 (28th), Sacramento: 104.5 (26th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder: 109.4 (20th), Sacramento: 113.9 (30th)
Pace: Thunder: 93.6 (8th), Sacramento: 94.1 (6th)
(Jeff Green could play tonight, according to ESPN/The Oklahoman. I guess we’ll find out around 9:00 p.m.)
Another wonderful matchup in the Blake Griffin Playoffs. So far, OKC has split with Sacramento this season and though the Kings are sitting at just 14 wins (now that we have 17, we can talk down at those crappy teams below us), they did pick up a nice win against Denver two nights ago.
But this is a little different Sactown team than OKC saw the first two times. Gone is John Salmons who averaged 21 points, 9.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds against the Thunder. Add Andres Nocioni, who scored 23 in the Kings big upset over the Nuggs. Plus Beno Udrih (29 points in last meeting) is hurt and Bobby Jackson will be starting in his steed.
The Kings have scored 233 points in their last two games combined, but as we know, the Thunder’s playing some serious defense right now holding their last five opponents to under 90 points a game, including holding Philly to season-low 74. So it looks like we’ll have a nice little offense/defense showdown tonight and I think it could be summed up perfectly by the Thabo/Kyle Weaver vs. Kevin Martin matchup.
I absolutely love watching Thabo play defense. He’s everywhere – he helps on drives, he recovers and rotates, he blocks shots, he gets his hands on passes and he rebounds. He’s always in an athletic position with his hands up and you can tell he wants to be an elite defender. And tonight, he gets a pretty elite scorer in Martin. Martin scored 37 in the first meeting in Sacramento, but was held to just 23 on 7-16 shooting in OKC’s 116-113 win. Kyle Weaver had the assignment that night and did solid work on Sacto’s two-guard and will get the call some too (whoever doesn’t get Martin will take Francisco Garcia who had 19 against Denver). Martin is a solid 6’7″ and though he has a funny release, he can get his shot off almost any time he wants. But I think Thabo (and Weaver) present a perfect match for him. Blanks is strong, long and can defend the drive. Weaver handled him relatively well last time. Should be some good matchups to watch.
Jeff Green could be back tonight, so we’re going to just assume he is. If he’s not, it’s pretty simple: Nick Collison will start and we’ll see the same thing we’ve seen the last four. But if Green is back, I’m really excited to watch him fit back into the offense. The offense has been very team oriented lately with six guys scoring in double figures against Philly and with even distribution across the board. I think with all the cutting and ball movement, Uncle Jeff could get a lot more open looks and more space to work with. But the thing is, the team needs to continue with its team offense and not just stand back and let Uncle Jeff go to work. He needs to just fit in with the offense, but just add more talent and scoring ability to it.
Up and down the lineup though, OKC matches Sacramento extremely well, Kevin Durant not. I like Russell Westbrook to bounce back after a tough game against Philly and Bobby Jackson is a scoring point man, but Westbrook is bigger, stronger and faster than him. Jason Thompson is a bruiser in the post, but Jeff Green doesn’t give and inch and can take Thompson off the dribble and on the perimeter. The Spencer Hawes/Nenad Krstic match is probably a push, depending on if Krispy is hitting his sweet 18-footer. The King bench is really thin and though OKC’s isn’t exactly deep, big contributions from Malik Rose and recently Earl Watson make you feel a bit better with it. And with Green supposedly playing, the Thunder bench gets deeper now having Collison coming off the pine. (Or maybe Green plays the three and Weaver comes off the bench? Whatever the case, OKC’s bench gets deeper and better.)
The Kings are efficiency-wise, the worst defensive team in the league and don’t exactly score the ball all that well either. We shouldn’t really expect a win because even with the team playing pretty good right now, they’re still 4-26 on the road. But obviously, a loss would be disappointing with the way the team is playing, road game or not. These types of games are so weird to predict because you’d assume the Thunder would win, but for some reason it seems like an extremely losable game as well. I don’t know why, but it just does.
Tip at 9:00 CST. Go Thunder.