Kings (25-46, 10-25 road) vs. Thunder (52-19, 29-7 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.1 (7th), Kings – 106.3 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (5th), Kings – 108.7 (24th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.7 (9th), Kings – 94.5 (14th)
The real story: The Thunder can clinch their fifth straight playoff appearance with a win tonight! Exciting. But the other story: Beating a team you should while hopefully finding more consistency on both ends of the floor. Russell Westbrook and others talked pretty openly about their defensive struggles, but the problem with it mostly lies in not bringing it night to night.
And that’s the fool’s gold you often find in playing a team like the Kings. You might hold them under 40 percent shooting and under 90 points, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you played well. On the flip side, allow them to shoot above 50 percent and drop 110 on you, and you’ll know in a hurry you’ve got work to do.
The Thunder have been prone to drop silly games this season, so nothing is a given. And any more slips from this point forward means the No. 1 seed is long gone. And don’t look now, but the Clippers aren’t all that far behind either. Can’t afford any kind of lapses at this point.
Three Big Things
1. Boogie. Without Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams and company are going to have a heavy task in front of them in handling DeMarcus Cousins. When the mercurial big man is on and locked in, he’s devastatingly good. He can post, he can hit from midrange and he can dominate the glass. Can Serge Ibaka handle him in a smallball lineup? We’ll see.
2. Second unit probs. The Thunder’s second unit has been inconsistent the last few weeks and while Reggie Jackson seems to be returning to form a bit, there’s a heavy reliance on Caron Butler to carry a big offensive punch. It’d be nice to see something a bit more impactful than 4-10 shooting for 10 points (and yes, I realize he had 23 last week). Butler isn’t a spot-up shooter, despite the Thunder using him as such. Get him in workable spots and let him do his thing.
3. Little Zeke. Isaiah Thomas is a game-time decision, but if he plays, he always gives OKC fits. And the reason for it is simple: He’s attack-minded and uses high screens really well. The main Thunder defensive issues have begun at the point of attack, with Westbrook and Reggie Jackson struggling to stop the ball. If Thomas plays, he’ll put them to the test.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Playoffs.