Apr 15, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) attempts a shot against Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) and Kings forward Jason Thompson (34) during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (4-11) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3) Preview

January 25, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas (22) drives to the hoop against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Thunder defeated the Kings 105-95. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento has the perfect remedy after losing to two of the West’s better teams—a matchup against the West’s best team! Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead a deep Thunder team into Sacramento to face off against the struggling Kings, who’ve fought hard but last their last four contests.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Sacramento Kings:

Los Angeles Clippers:

C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky
21.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.1% FG
C: Kendrick Perkins, 6’10, C.J. Ozen HS
3.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 45.2% FG
PF: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider
6.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 46.8% FG
PF: Serge Ibaka, 6’10, Congo
14.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 51% FG
SF: Derrick Williams, 6’8, Arizona
14.7 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 35.2% FG
SF: Kevin Durant, 6’11, Texas
26.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.5 APG, 45.8% FG
SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas
8.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 37.4% FG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha, 6’7, Italy
6.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 40.9% FG
PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland
10.6 PPG, 5.2 APG, 47.3% FG
PG: Russell Westbrook, 6’3, UCLA
21.1 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.1 RPG, 39.5% FG

Key Bench Players:

G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington
28.3 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 4.6 APG, 46% FG
G: Reggie Jackson, 6’3, Boston College
23.8 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 49% FG
F: Travis Outlaw, 6’8, Starkville HS
6.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 46.8% FG
G: Jeremy Lamb, 6’5, UConn
19.9 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 45% FG
F: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky
23.6 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 40% FG
C:   Steven Adams, 7’0, Pittsburgh
17.3 MPG, 4.4 PPG, 5 RPG, 49% FG

 

Last Three Contests:

April 15, 2013: Kings @ Thunder – Thunder 104, Kings 95
January 25, 2013: Thunder @ Kings – Thunder 105, Kings 95
December 14, 2012: Thunder @ Kings – Thunder 113, Kings 103

Key Matchup: Kings Point Guards verses Russell Westbrook

You could arguably pick three matchups here (Durant vs. Williams, Ibaka vs. Thompson), but we’ll go with the battle at the point.

Isaiah Thomas’ defense on Stephan Curry and Darren Collision over the past two games was below average at best, and Greivis Vasquez was far worse than even that. Now they have to face off against one of the fastest in the game that delights in lighting up his opponents with his speed and athleticism. A recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Point Guard Struggles: Remember when Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez could be called “consistent”? That seems a long time ago. Thomas has become erratic, and his decision making has taken a sharp nosedive (11 turnovers in the past two games). In the past five games, Vasquez is averaging 10.4 points, but on 36% shooting—and worse yet, he’s proving incapable of guarding any of his assignments.

A return to form for the point guard duo is a necessity if Sacramento wishes to avoid being blown out in their own building.

2. Minimal Mental Mistakes: The Kings has 15 turnovers against the Clippers and 22 against the Warriors. Against a team as talented as the Thunder, turnovers can’t happen. A near perfect game is in order offensively to keep up with the likes of Durant and Westbrook—this means limiting turnovers, passing the ball efficiently, and finding good looks.

3. Make the Non-Stars Bet You: Durant and Westbrook don’t have James Harden to help out anymore. Now they have the likes of Jeremy Lamb. This isn’t as deep a Thunder team as they have been in the past, so constant double teamings of the stars would be a smart gamble. Force Durant and Westbrook into tough shots, and make the other players beat you.

Most importantly, consistent defense effort is key. The Kings can’t afford to get lazy and get down big—you can’t fight back as easily against the Thunder as you could the defensively challenged Warriors.

Prediction: The Kings fight hard, but much like the past four games, are overwhelmed by the disparities in team talent. – Thunder 113, Kings 101

Tags: Sacramento Kings

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