Tag Archives: DeMarcus Cousins

Pelicans vs. Thunder Primer (Preseason Game 2)

pelicansvs. okc logo

  • When: Friday, 06 October 2017 at 7:00 pm CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
  • TV: okcthunder.com or the OKC Thunder app (stream)
  • Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))

One preseason game down. Oklahoma City Thunder fans finally got to see what Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will look like in Thunder uniforms. It didn’t always flow smoothly, but the set-up for something bigger was there. The two of the Big 3 who played put their vast array of skills on display. George showed his overall ability (offense and defense) and Anthony showed his shot-making ability.

Were there hiccups? Of course. George and Anthony overpassed a little, leading to a couple turnovers. In addition, they seemed a little lost on how to use Steven Adams. The chemistry developed between Russell Westbrook and Adams took about two seasons to actually produce fruit. It would be foolish to think the new players on the team would have immediate chemistry with the old players on the team. Continue reading Pelicans vs. Thunder Primer (Preseason Game 2)

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Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 79 of 82)

westbrook adams thunder evans kings

  • When: Friday, 10 April 2015 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Four straight losses. And yet, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves in the midst of being able to get the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference. With the way this season has gone, it only seems apropos that it would come down to the final four games of the season for this team. The Thunder are currently tied in the standings with the New Orleans Pelicans, who hold the tie-breaker by virtue of winning the season series 3-1. With that said, the Thunder will need help from other teams to ensure that they do not finish with the same record as the Pelicans. The road ahead is a little bit tougher for the Pelicans, but that could also be a mirage as the two playoff teams they are facing in the next week may be resting their players. The Thunder on the other hand, play a Pacers team on the road that is trying to claw its way back into the Eastern Conference playoffs and division rival Portland, who may or may not be resting their starters in that game. For as much as the Thunder control their own destiny, they still need help. Here’s to being a Minnesota, Phoenix, Houston, and San Antonio fan in the next few days.

This is the 4th and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder lead the season series 2-1, with the victor of each game winning pretty convincingly. Injuries have played a role in each of the games, as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were absent for the first game, DeMarcus Cousins was injured for the second game, and Durant was out again for the third game.

The Opponent

mccallum mclemore miller kings

The Sacramento Kings come into the game with a 27-51 record. The Kings’ season started positively enough as they opened up the 2014-15 campaign 9-5. But injuries and in-fighting between the head coach and the front office quickly changed the course of the season in a negative way. In the end, head coach Mike Malone was fired in mid-December and the Kings never regained any of the momentum they had when they started the season. Since then, they’ve gone on to hire veteran coach George Karl to be their coach for the foreseeable future.  The coaching change hasn’t done much to stem the tide, as the Kings have gone 9-17 since Karl was hired. They score 100.9 points per game (good for 13th in the league), but give up 104.9 points per game (which is 28th worst in the league). The current starting back-court for the Kings is an inexperienced bunch made up of two 2nd year players (Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore). Both have been inefficient in their shot selection and decision making. On the wing, veteran Omri Casspi  has been the Kings’ best player in the last 3 games. There is a possibility that Rudy Gay may play in this game, but he has been dealing with the after effects of a concussion. With DeMarcus Cousins being out with foot injury, the Kings have been shuffling their glut of power forwards into and out of the starting front court (Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans, Derrick Williams, and Carl Landry). Off the bench, the non-starting power forwards, Ryan Hollins, and Andre Miller will provide much of the reserve playing time.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Ray McCallum
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – Carl Landry

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Dion Waiters
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Enes Kanter
  • C – Steven Adams

Three Things

1. Trap Game Potential – The Kings are not a very good team, but sometimes, the Thunder have a tendency to play down to their opponents. With so much on the line, I could definitely see a scenario where the Thunder start the game off cold and then try too hard to come back. A lot of the Thunder’s new players have never had to deal with this type of pressure, so a trap game scenario is definitely a possibility.

2. Rebounding – The Kings aren’t good at a lot of things. But they are pretty good at rebounding. And bad teams that can rebound tend to stay around in games they have no business being in contention for. Surprisingly, though, outside of Cousins, the Kings’ other big men aren’t necessarily great at rebounding. The Kings’ small forwards though, gobble up their fair share of boards, so everyone on the Thunder will have to be disciplined on the blocks for the rebounds.

kanter adams thunder

3. Twin Towers – The Thunder’s big men have a significant size advantage (outside of Sim Bhullar) over the rest of the Kings’ big men. This is another game in which both players could possibly get double-doubles against the Kings’ smaller front line.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 36 of 82)

durant thunder gay evans kings

  • When: Wednesday, 07 January 2015 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

Two steps forward, one step back. Since the beginning of the season, this has been the story of the Thunder’s season. Since starting the season 3-12, the Thunder have gone on to win 14 of 20 games, which translates to a .700 winning percentage. But it seems like once they get it going, something happens that stops the momentum dead in its tracks. Be it an injury, a bad call, or a core-rattling midseason trade (we miss ya Lance), something always seems to derail the momentum train. The Thunder once again find themselves on the lower end of the win-loss spectrum. With Phoenix catching fire all the sudden, the Thunder need to put together a string of victories to at least keep within striking distance of the 8th spot. The narrative is always that there is plenty of season left. But the Thunder are 5 games from the midway point, and a sense of urgency has yet to develop within the OKC mindset. Hopefully, what I see as a lack of urgency is actually just a quiet confidence that has been fostered from experience.

This is the 3rd of 4 meetings between the Thunder and the Kings. Oklahoma City won the previous two meetings by an average of 10 points. This is the first game between the two teams where each team is relatively healthy. In the first meeting, the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and in the second meeting, the Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins.

The Opponent

cousins gay collison kings

The Sacramento Kings’ record currently sits at 14-20. After starting the season 9-5, The King have gone on to lose 15 of their next 20 because of injuries to key players and front office turmoil, which resulted in the firing of head coach Mike Malone. The Kings’ issues can be traced directly to their defense and their lack of ball movement. Even though they score 102 points per game (good for 13th in the league), they give up 104.4 ppg on the other end. And they rank 28th in the league in assists at just 19.8 per game. Their offense runs through Cousins, but he does a poor job of finding shooters on the wings when he has the ball. That’s unfortunate because the Kings have 3 starters (Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, and Ben McLemore) who all shoot 36% or better from the 3-point line. Inside, they have a glut of power forwards (Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans, and Carl Landry) who aren’t necessarily great at any facet of the game. Their bench is deep, but is still one of the more weaker ones in the league. Ray McCollum and Nik Stauskas will likely see more minutes off the bench tonight due to injuries to Ramon Sessions and Omri Casspi.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Darren Collison
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – The Kings aren’t good at a lot of things, but they are pretty good at rebounding. They grab 44.5 rebounds per game, which is good for 8th in the league. Cousins averages 12.1 boards himself and the trio of power forwards grab 17.5 boards a game between them. If there’s one thing that gives struggling teams momentum, it’s offensive rebounding. The Thunder bigs need to do a good job of boxing out and getting the 50/50 rebounds..

2. Get to the bench – The Kings’ starting 5 accounts for 76.3% of the points the team scores. Two of their top scoring reserves are out for tonight’s game. If the Thunder can get the starters in foul trouble, the Kings may have to use their bench more than they would like.

waiters thunder

3. Dion Waiters – It’s Christmas in January! Newly acquired guard Dion Waiters will be in uniform tonight and available. It will be interesting to see how and where head coach Scott Brooks will use Waiters.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 25 of 82)

durant thunder thompson kings

  • When: Tuesday, 16 December 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

The Oklahoma City Thunder are slowly climbing that playoff ladder. With their win against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday and the Suns’ last second loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Thunder found themselves half a game from the 8th spot, behind the New Orleans Pelicans. While injuries tripped up the Thunder at the beginning of the season, injuries seem to be tripping up some of the teams the Thunder are currently look to climb over. Goran Dragic missed the Suns’ last two games with a back injury. Anthony Davis missed the last game for the Pelicans with a bruised chest. And Demarcus Cousins has missed the last 9 games for the Kings with viral meningitis. The breaks other teams were catching when the Thunder were injured, are the same breaks the Thunder are now catching against other teams. Such is the beast known at the NBA regular season.

This is the second of four meeting between the Thunder and Kings. The Thunder won the first meeting 101-93 in Oklahoma City. In that game, Reggie Jackson scored 11 of his 22 points in the 4th quarter to help the Thunder hold off the Kings who made a furious charge in the 2nd half after being down by 13 at halftime.

The Opponent

gay mclemore collison kings

The Sacramento Kings currently sit at 11-13, which is the same record as the Thunder. After starting the season off 9-5, the Kings have gone on to drop 8 of their last 10, culminating in the firing of head coach Michael Malone. From all reports, the Kings front office and the coach disagreed on a number of player personnel issues and the losing streak was just a means to an end for the front office. The recent slide can be directly linked to star center DeMarcus Cousins being sidelined with viral meningitis. Without a presence in the middle, defenses have been able to defend the Kings’ perimeter players one on one and not allow them to get open shots. Leading the Kings’ attack is Darren Collison, who is averaging 16 points and 6.3 assists per game. While never one to be mistaken with the league’s elite point guards, Collison can hold his own with his quickness and ability to get into the lane. On the perimeter, Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay may not be the most efficient bunch, but if they get going, they can take over games from the perimeter. Up front, the loss of  Cousins exposes the lack of depth the Kings have on the interior. Which is surprising considering half their roster is power forwards. Off the bench, Ray McCallum, Ramon Sessions, Carl Landry, Reggie Evans, and Nik Stauskas provide the Kings with some depth, especially in the back court. Omri Casspi and the aforementioned Cousins will be out tonight.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Darren Collison
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – Ryan Hollins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap-Game Potential – Having just played the No. 8 team (at the time) in the Western Conference standings and possibly looking ahead to a prime-time match-up with the Golden State Warriors, this game has high trap game potential. Add to that the fact the Kings are slumping, missing their best player, playing for a new head coach, and playing at home on national TV, and you have the perfect formula for a let down on the Thunder’s part.

2. Rebounding – There has been a lot of correlation lately between the Thunder out-rebounding their opponents and winning games comfortably. The Kings have a stable of power forwards that can grab rebounds by the bunches. If a Thunder allow them to get too comfortable on the interior, then the Kings will eventually take advantage of their 2nd chance opportunities.

perkins collison thunder thompson kings

3. Rudy Gay/Kendrick Perkins – There are a couple givens in life: Death, taxes, and the “Kendrick Perkins offensive foul due to a hard screen on Rudy Gay” play. It’s coming. Bank on it.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

Pacific Division

1. Los Angeles Clippers

paul griffin jordan clippers

Last season: 57-25 (1st in the Pacific Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions:

  • Chris Douglas-Roberts – Free agent signing
  • Jordan Farmar – Free agent signing
  • Spencer Hawes – Free agent signing
  • Ekpe Udoh – Free agent signing
  • C.J. Wilcox – Draft (No. 28 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Joe Ingles – Australian free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Jared Dudley – Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Danny Granger – Signed with the Miami Heat
  • Ryan Hollins – Signed with the Sacramento Kings
  • Willie Green – Claimed off waivers by the Orlando Magic
  • Darren Collison – Signed with the Sacramento Kings

Season preview – While one team gets embroiled in a controversy related to race (Atlanta), another team is getting out of their racial controversy relatively unscathed. With the Donald Sterling fiasco behind them, and with new ownership, the Clippers look to build on the success from last season. The highest scoring team in the league (107.9 ppg) brings back its main core, while also adding the perimeter shooting of Spencer Hawes and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the mix. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are legit MVP contenders and the Clippers should be in the thick of things when it comes to championship contenders.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Clippers make it to the Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 59-23

2. Golden State Warriors

curry thompson splash bros warriors

Last season: 51-31 (2nd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers

Key Additions:

  • Leandro Barbosa – Free agent signing
  • Shaun Livingston – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Steve Blake – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Crawford – Unsigned
  • Jermaine O’Neal – Unsigned

Season Preview – Golden State is one of those teams that seems to be on the cusp of becoming an elite team, but is missing that extra “oomph” to get them there. Unfortunately, whatever that oomph is was obtained in the offseason. The Warriors basically bring back the same team from last season. While Curry and Thompson may continue to get better, the rest of the team, for the most part, has already plateaued in terms of skill improvement/refinement. I see the Warriors still being good, but also, still not being good enough.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Warriors reach the 2nd round of the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 50-32

3. Phoenix Suns

dragic bledsoe suns

Last season: 48-34 (3rd in the Pacific Division, 9th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Tyler Ennis – Draft (No. 18 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded from the Sacramento Kings
  • TJ Warren – Draft (No. 14 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Tolliver – Free agent signing

Key Departures

  • Channing Frye – Signed with the Orlando Magic

Season Preview – The Eric Bledsoe contract situation has the ability to cast a huge shadow on this season for the Suns. After the feel good story that was last season, the Suns appear headed for a fork in the road with this Bledsoe situation. If he signs his 1-year qualifying offer, that could play out any number of ways, with some of those options blowing up in the Suns’ face. The Suns may be forced to trade Bledsoe, in order to keep Goran Dragic, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2015. All in all, I see this Bledsoe situation being too much of a distraction throughout the season for them to continue with what they started last season. Add to that the fact the Suns will no longer be able to sneak up on teams, and you are looking at a team-wide “sophomore slump”. This team will score a ton of points, and will be fun to watch, but will they be able to stop elite team on the other side of the court?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Suns make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 45-37

4. Sacramento Kings

demarcus cousins kings

Last season: 28-54 (4th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Omri Casspi – Free agent signing
  • Darren Collison – Free agent signing
  • Ryan Hollins – Free agent signing
  • Nik Stauskas – Draft (No. 8 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Jason Terry – Traded to the Houston Rockets
  • Aaron Gray – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded to the Phoenix Suns

Season Preview – The Kings seem to finally be on the upswing. They are starting to assemble a team around DeMarcus Cousins, with shooters on the outside (Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas) and rugged enforcers/rebounders on the inside (Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson). Rudy Gay will provide further perimeter scoring and Darren Collison will attempt to quarterback the whole thing. They will continue to fall short due to the weakness of the point guard position, but the maturation of Cousins will start to point the ship in the right direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings make a play for Rajon Rondo sometime this season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Kings surpass 35 wins.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 37-45

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant

Last season: 27-55 (5th in the Pacific Division, 14th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Carlos Boozer – Claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls
  • Ed Davis – Free agent signing
  • Jeremy Lin – Obtained in a trade from the Houston Rockets
  • Julius Randle – Draft (No. 7 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Pau Gasol – Signed with the Chicago Bulls
  • Chris Kaman – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jodie Meeks – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Kendall Marshall – Waived; Claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Kent Bazemore – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Jordan Farmar – Signed with the Los Angeles Clippers

Season Preview – As someone who respects Kobe Bryant, this is not how I envisioned his final years. The Lakers are going to struggle, and struggle bad. Kobe may have a couple Kobe games left in him, but Father Time remains unbeaten (unless your name is Timothy Theodore Duncan). The Lakers are loading up on short contracts to coincide with the end of Kobe’s contract. Then, the Lakers will look to do what the Lakers usually do: lure top talent with the auspices of Hollywood glitz. But until then, it will be a lot like Lolo Jones’ performance on Dancing With the Star, which is to say cringe-worthy.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Lakers keep their 2015 first round pick (Top 5 protected; if it’s outside of that range, it goes to Phoenix)

Projected 2014-15 Record: 29-53

Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 77 of 82)

jackson thomas acy thunder kings

  • When: Tuesday, 08 April 2014 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

Two weeks ago, it appeared that the Thunder would battle the San Antonio Spurs for Western Conference supremacy at best or stroll into the 2 seed at worst. Now, with losses in 3 of their last 4 games, the Thunder find themselves in an all-out sprint with the Los Angeles Clippers for the number 2 seed in the conference. The Clippers are just a game back in the standings by virtue of having played two more games (and consequently, having two more losses) than the Thunder.

The Thunder have a bad habit of battling complacency in games that aren’t of much import to them, and then turning it on in games they deem important (Miami, San Antonio, Clippers, Portland). These last 6 games will be a great test to see if the team is mentally “there” heading into the playoffs.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the year between the Kings and Thunder. The Thunder have won each the 3 previous meetings this season by an average of 10 points, but only beat the Kings by 2 when they played in Sacramento early in the season.

The Opponent

cousins mclemore kings

The Kings currently sit at 27-50, and are looking towards next season. In hand, they already have 2 important pieces as the team moves forward. Ben McLemore is still finding his way in the NBA in this, his rookie season. DeMarcus Cousins, though, is showing everyone what his combination of skill and athleticism, along with finally showing signs of maturity, can lead to. And what it’s led to is a player that leads his team in scoring (22.3), rebounding (11.6), steals (1.5), and blocks (1.3). Unfortunately, the rest of the team is not very good. Rudy Gay gives you about 20 points of game, but is inefficient and gives you little else in the form of defense or playmaking. Isaiah Thomas does a good job of attacking the teeth of the defense, but is probably out for the rest of the season with a quad injury.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Ray McCallum
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Reggie Evans
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap Game Potential – With the Clippers game on tap for tomorrow, this game has trap game written all over it. I’m pretty sure the Thunder know what’s at stake, and what they have to do to maintain their seeding.

2. DeMarcus Cousins – With Isaiah Thomas out, this is the only player the Thunder really have to fear on the Kings. Steven Adams did a good job defending Cousins the last time they played, but will have to stay away from the fouls.

cousins adams jackson thunder kings

3. Rebounding – Cousins, Evans, and Jason Thompson all have a knack for getting to rebounds. If there is one way the Kings can hang around in this game, its by grabbing offensive rebounds and extending possessions.

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 72 of 82)

westbrook perkins sefolosha cousins kings thunder

  • When: Friday, 28 March 2014 at 7:00 PM EST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s games like these next two that make people complain about the length of the NBA schedule. A team that has already clinched a playoff spot versus two teams that are already playing for next season. Don’t get me wrong, though. This has nothing to do with the effort of the players. They are still giving their all (or giving enough to fake it). These types of games don’t offer much in the emotional investment department, unless you take into account caring about playoff seeding.

This is the third meeting of the year between the Thunder and the Sacramento Kings. The Thunder lead the season series 2-0. The first game was a back and forth affair that the Thunder won 97-95 in Sacramento. In the 2nd meeting, the Thunder took control of the game in the middle two quarters and cruised to a 108-93 victory.

The Opponent

Orlando Magic v Sacramento Kings

The Kings currently sit at 25-46. They are in the middle of a weird rebuild. They have some pieces to build off of (DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore), but most everyone else on the team is in flux. To combat the youth of some of the key players on the team, the front office made some moves to obtain some veteran presence in Rudy Gay, Jason Terry, and Reggie Evans. The Kings are middle of the pack offensively (101.3 ppg, 13th in the NBA), but terrible defensively (103.6 ppg, 26th in the NBA). The team is a collective of isolation players as evidenced by their team assist totals (19 per game, last in the NBA). Isaiah Thomas does a good job as an attacking point guard, but acts more like an extremely undersized shooting guard at times. DeMarcus Cousins is finally starting to show some of the potential that tantalized many teams when he came out of Kentucky 4 seasons ago. He has transformed himself into a 20/10 guy. Rudy Gay is Rudy Gay: inefficient volume scorer who offers little else. The bench is a lot like the team itself: a weird mix of veterans and young players that doesn’t quite fit.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Isaiah Thomas
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Reggie Evans
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Tempering the Hot Hand – While its true that the Kings are inconsistent, their scorers are streaky and can heat up pretty quickly. Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas, and DeMarcus Cousins all have the ability to light a defense up for 20 or more points. And we all know the Thunder are the team to play if you want to score a new career high.

2. Rebounding – With Reggie Evans and DeMarcus Cousins up front, one of the things this team does well is rebound. Giving a bad team more opportunities to score is never a recipe for success. Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, and Nick Collison have to make it a point to box out and keep the Kings off the glass.

westbrook thomas kings thunder

3. Russ post-ups – Whether its Thomas or Ray McCallum, this should be a game where the Russell Westbrook post-up comes into play. Westbrook is too tall (Thomas) and/or too strong (McCallum) for either of these players to handle.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings Preview (Game 16 of 82)

collison westbrook cousins thompson kings thunder

  • When: Tuesday, 03 December 2013 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

After 2 weeks of great home cooking (6-0 homestand!), the Oklahoma City Thunder head west for a 2 game back to back set, before ending up in New Orleans for the 3rd game of the road trip. The first leg of the road trip takes the Thunder to  Sacramento for their first of four meeting with the Kings this season. The Thunder come into the game riding a 7-game win streak after having lost 2 games in a row on their last road trip.

The Thunder swept the season series against the Kings last season, 3-0, with an average margin of victory just below 10. After nearly losing the franchise to Seattle in the off-season, the Arco faithful (Sleep Train, really?)  may be clamoring and cow-belling from this type of game.

The Opponent

kings mclemore cousins thomas

The Sacramento Kings come into the game with a 4-11 record, having lost 4 in a row. The misleading part is that the Kings have been close in 3 of those 4 consecutive losses, losing by 7 points combined in two games versus the Clippers and losing by 2 points to the Warriors. The Kings are in the bottom third of four major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists per game and points allowed). The team is in the midst of a second consecutive rebuild after the Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins duo failed to mature and develop. Gone is Evans, whom the team traded to New Orleans for Greivis Vasquez. Joining Vasquez in the back court is rookie guard Ben McLemore, who has shown flashes of greatness, but is still struggling with consistency. The newly acquired Derrick Williams joins Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousin in the front court to form an offensively formidable trio with a penchant for struggling defensively. Though inconsistent, the bench can provide a big punch with sparkplugs Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton providing instant offense, and Patrick Patterson and John Salmons providing anything else that is needed. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings Preview (Game 16 of 82)

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 81 of 82)

turnovers

Today’s game day preview is brought to you by the letter W and the number 1. The magic number for the Oklahoma City Thunder to clinch the number 1 spot in the Western Conference is one. A Thunder win (W) or a San Antonio Spurs loss will get us there. Considering the Thunder game is on before the Spurs game, we’ll hopefully know if the Thunder have clinched so that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can make a decision whether to rest his starters or not.

It would be the first No. 1 seed in the Thunder’s history and would put a rousing exclamation point on a season that began in such disarray with the James Harden trade. It would be an assertion of the hard work and dedication that the Thunder place on “getting better.” When a top player on a team leaves, others have to step up. And that’s what all the Thunder players have done. From Kevin Durant on down to Hasheem Thabeet, every player in the rotation has improved in some facet of his game.

demarcus

But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch just yet. The Thunder still have a game to play and must win it to ensure that the No.1 seed doesn’t come down to the final game of the season. The Sacramento Kings come into the game having lost 6 of their last 7 games. It’s been a bumpy ride for the Kings and their fans this entire season, as they have had to handle immature players, internal strife, and insecurities about whether the team will be playing in Sacramento or Seattle next season. Luckily for the Kings, the 16th technical that DeMarcus Cousins received in their last game was rescinded, and he’ll be able to play in the game tonight. The Thunder have won both games against the Kings this season, and look to sweep their Pacific division rivals in Oklahoma City.

Probable Starting Lineup

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Isaiah Thomas
  • SG – Tyreke Evans
  • SF – John Salmons
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Hasheem Thabeet

3 Keys to the Game

1. Playoff Spoilers – There’s nothing better for a team out of the playoff race than to ruin a playoff team’s night. The Kings know the Thunder are playing for something. This will be akin to a playoff game for Sacramento. The Thunder need not give this young team any inklings of hope to turn this into a game.

kd kings

2. Turnovers – Young teams feast on turnovers. It’s the life blood that keeps them in games. The Kings have the ability to turn a live ball turnover on one side of the court into a fast break score on the other in the blink of an eye. Protecting the ball will be key to limiting the Kings’ offensive  opportunities.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Hasheem – He did a good job on JJ Hickson in the Portland game, but Cousins is a different type of player. He has a vast skill set with the ability to hit 20 footers consistently or post up in the paint. He should be consistently averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, but is derailed most of the time by his immaturity and frustration. Hasheem will have his hands full tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Collison get his fair share of minutes.

OKC Thunder Week in Review (Feb 6th – Feb 12th)

Record for the week – 3 – 1

Overall record – 21 – 6

One word to describe this week: tiring. With a 4 game West-Coast trip, every game usually finished around midnight, our time. And all 4 games were close enough that you had to watch them in their entirety. No blow-outs this week.

Games played:

Feb 6th – @ Portland

There comes a game in every season where you just sit back and say, “Wow, the refs got that all wrong.” Two years ago, in a tightly contested overtime thriller against the Utah Jazz, they got the benefit of a no-call at the final horn to escape with a 1 point victory at home. It was very apparent that Kevin Durant was hacked as he attempted the last second 3-pt heave. But the refs swallowed their whistles and the game went down in the record books as a Jazz victory. A day later, the NBA apologized because it had gotten the call wrong.

Fast forward to the Portland game on Monday. With 7 seconds left, KD drove to the basket with the Thunder down by 2. At the same time that the ball hit the backboard, LaMarcus Aldridge swatted the ball from behind. A close call, but the refs called a goal-tend and awarded the two points to Durant to tie the game. After a failed attempt by the Trailblazers at the end of regulation, the Thunder used timely scoring from their big three (Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden) and great defense by Kendrick Perkins on LaMarcus Aldridge to pull out a 111 – 107 victory. A day later, the NBA apologized for the blown call by the refs in awarding the goal-tending call to Durant. Sometime you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail.

Feb 7th – @ Golden State

Golden State games are the only games that give me heartburn, especially if they are in Oakland. Hypothetically, looking at the records, we should be able to clamp down defensively on this team and cruise to an easy victory. But for some reason, be that style of play or the fact that our defensive weaknesses match up so poorly with their offensive strengths, we can never quite have a comfortable lead against this team. We usually end up winning, but it a very close affair all the way until the end. In the last four seasons, including this one, we are 9 – 4 against the Warriors, but the average score has been a “too close for comfort” 111 – 109. And why would Tuesday night by any different?

The game was actually a microcosm of the games these teams have played in the last 4 seasons. Every time someone pushed a lead to 7 points, the other team went a 12-1 run to capture the lead. No lead was safe. The torrid pace was fun, but many Thunder fans lost at least 1 year of their lives because of this game. The Warriors were led by Monta Ellis who had a career high 48 points and by David Lee who notched his 2nd career triple-double with 25 points, 11 boards, and 10 assists. But while the Dubs had 2 great players, the Thunder relied on 4 players who between them scored 100 points (Durant (33), Westbrook (31), Harden (19) and Cook (17)). The 4th quarter was the Big 3 with a Cook show. All 4 players provided timely baskets to keep the Thunder within striking distance throughout the 4th quarter. With 17 seconds to go and the Thunder down by 1, they went to ol’ reliable (Durant), who went to the bank and put the Thunder up by 1. The Warriors didn’t score the rest of the way. 119-116 Thunder.

Feb 8th – Off day

And on the middle day of a back to back West Coast sandwich, Thunder Nation rested.

Feb 9th – @ Sacramento

If there was one game in this set where you said to yourself, “This is going to be an easy game,” this was definitely it. A young, inconsistent team who had fired their coach earlier in the season and had 2 mercurial young stars (Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins). On paper, this was a gimme. But, as the saying goes, this is why you play the game. The Thunder pulled the same M.O. from their 2 games; keep it close, apply the clamps at the end, and make timely shots. The only problem was that the Kings shook the clamps off late in the 4th quarter and those timely shots weren’t falling for the Thunder in this game. In their only nationally televised game, with a playoff atmosphere that hadn’t been seen since the glory days of Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, and a raucous crowd that was all blacked-out, the young Kings rose to the occasion and outlasted the Thunder 106-101. Was there any reason to think that the Thunder would win when Chris Webber shows up to call a game and ends up putting a Kings jersey on?

Feb 10 – @ Utah

There are just some games where everything works out for you. In a game where Durant deferred offensively, Russell Westbrook happily stepped up and scored 28 points on 10 – 20 shooting. It just felt like one of those games where we held the Jazz at bay, but knew that they could string together a 10-1 run at any point. It never materialized, in part to the double doubles posted by each Kendrick Perkin and Serge Ibaka, which negated anything from the Jazz’s front court duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. The Thunder coasted in the second half to a 101 – 87 victory.

Player of the Week: Serge Ibaka

In a week where Durant and Westbrook averaged nearly 30 ppg each and hit timely shots, this week’s award is going to someone on the defensive end. If there was a picture next to the words ‘interior defender’, it would be of Serge Ibaka. For the week, his ridiculous stat line was as follows – 4 games played (10.3 ppg on 55% FG shooting and 82% FT shooting, 9.8 boards per game (with 4 per game coming offensively), and 4 blocks per game). He single handily kept us in games with his offensive rebounding and paint protection.

3 In The Paint

1. Russell Westbrook’s assist numbers (or lack thereof) are really starting to worry me. I completely understand that our offense is iso-oriented and Durant and Harden’s assist numbers are going up. But I think a lot of our early game struggles are due to the fact that we are not finding a groove offensively with the first unit and instead have to wait until the 2nd unit gets in to find any kind of cohesiveness on the offensive end. If Russell would think involvement instead of attack when the game starts, I think that would make a lot more things open up for the starters earlier in the game.

2. Some teams have no closers. Some teams only have one. But we have the luxury of having 2. Durant and Westbrook were mostly great in their late game executions this week. Westbrook had the mid-range game working late in games and Durant hit the big shot when it needed to be hit (even if he had a little help from the refs on one of those occasions).

3. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. A lot of the reason why teams are able to hang around till the end with us is because of our penchant for turning the ball over. If this number goes down, the number of close games will probably go down to.

Thunder UP!!!!