Sacramento Kings (3-4, 2-1 home) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3, 1-1 road)
View from the enemy: Cowbell Kingdom
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 102.0 (23rd), Kings – 110.0 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 97.2 (4th), Kings – 112.4 (27th)
Pace: Thunder – 90.1 (27th), Kings – 93.6 (12th)
After starting 0-3 and one of those losses at the hands of the Thunder, the Kings are trying to win a third straight tonight. Granted, the last win was against the lowly Warriors, but winning in Salt Lake City is nothing to dismiss. The Kings are improving and are already a better team than what Oklahoma City saw opening night.
And now there’s no Kevin Martin, the only reason Sacramento was even remotely close in the first meeting. And you know what? That scares me.
Because Sacto has been playing better WITHOUT Martin. And it’s not some “Oh, is the Thunder better without Durant?” bullcrap. It’s that the team is relying more on everyone, instead of hoping Martin scores 40. Tyreke Evans is blossoming. Omri Casspi is becoming a deadly bench player. And the addition of Ime Udoka helps them on the perimeter. These guys are better and this one is on the road. On paper, it looks promising. But the Kings aren’t some pushover.
Now Sacramento isn’t a good team or anything – yet – but they’ve got pieces to make you sweat. Especially for a team like the Thunder that while good, isn’t at the place where you can pencil in wins against even lackluster opponents.
Not too much has changed since the first meeting. Oh wait. Check that. In just two weeks, A LOT has changed. As mentioned, Martin is out. But also, starting small forward Desmond Mason is gone and now Ime Udoka is in his place. Plus the fact Evans is playing so well.
But clearly, the matchups still favor OKC, I have to think. Westbrook is an ideal defender for Evans because Westbrook pressures constantly. Russ isn’t going to ease of and let Evans drive. Plus, Westbrook’s quick hands and good instincts will probably frustrate the rookie and offensively, Russ might get Evans in foul trouble. But Evans will play both the point and shooting guard tonight, so Thabo will have a crack at him too. And Beno Udrih versus Westbrook isn’t all that terrifying.
On the block, Jeff Green abused Jason Thompson and Nenad Krstic had his way with Spencer Hawes and Sean May. I’d imagine things won’t change too much. Thompson got in foul trouble early the first meeting and never had a chance to try and match Green. But that’s the thing – Uncle Jeff can get opposing fours in foul trouble easily because of his inside-out ability and also because he can put it on the floor.
Udoka will probably get the majority of the minutes on KD, even though Andres Nocioni is technically the starter. Donte Greene will get some minutes too and he may be the most athletic player on the King roster, Evans included.
This one feels a bit like a toss up to me. Riding high off a beat down of the Magic, you’d hope OKC would bring in some serious momentum. But then again, the Kings are feeling pretty good about themselves too. The Thunder tries to get back over .500 while Sacto looks to get to .500. It actually kind of an intriguing game. It’s the first of a three-game road trip that could bring the Thunder back to OKC at 6-3, 3-6 or somewhere in between. But it could start off on a good foot with a win tonight.
Late start for us Okies tonight. Tip at 9:00 CST. Go NBA in OKC.