Tip-Off: 8 PM CST
Location: Golden 1 Center (Sacramento, California)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
C DeMarcus Cousins is one of the NBA’s most dominant big men, and he is carrying a heavy load for the Kings, who are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference. Cousins is averaging 28.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists so far this season. He is pretty solid at shooting the three, especially for a big man, making 37.9% of his almost 5 attempts per game from behind the arc. In the Thunder’s first meeting with the Kings on November 23rd, Cousins had 36 points on 14/28 (50%) shooting, including 3/5 (60%) from three, and 13 rebounds. Steven Adams struggled to slow Cousins down, so this matchup will be key to coming away with a win.
Keys to the Game
- Protect & Pressure the Paint: Oklahoma City flourishes down low leading the league with 50.5 points in the paint per game, but Sacramento walked all over them in the first matchup between the teams on November 23rd. The Kings outscored the Thunder 54-40 in the paint, and that affected other aspects of the game. DeMarcus Cousins dominated the interior for the Kings, and that opened up scoring opportunities for his teammates. The Thunder will need to continue it’s down-low dominance in order to be successful tonight.
- Control Tempo & Transition: Oklahoma City ranks 3rd in the league in fast break points with 17.5 per game and 2nd in the league in transition defense allowing only 10.6 fast break points per game. Sacramento ranks in the bottom half of the NBA in both fast break points (18th with 11.5 per game) and opponent fast break points (25th 14.5 points per game). The Thunder likes to play a fast tempo game, and they were successful at doing that in the first meeting against the Kings as they outscored Sacramento 28-4 in transition. Oklahoma City needs to repeat this type of performance and keep the pressure on Sacramento.
- Defend & Dominate the Perimeter: In the first contest between Oklahoma City and Sacramento, the Kings absolutely destroyed the Thunder from behind the arc. Sacramento shot 12/28 (42.9%), while Oklahoma City only managed 7/25 (28%). The Kings are 15th in 3-point shooting, and they make 35.8% of them, but the Thunder’s perimeter defense has shown improvement this season, and they currently hold opponents to 34.8% from three, which is 6th in the NBA. Oklahoma City is pretty terrible from behind the arc, and they make only 32.5% of their attempts, which is 29th in the NBA, but Sacramento is 28th in the league in perimeter defense, allowing opponents to make 38.0% from deep. The Kings won the first matchup in large part due to their success from three, so winning that battle will be a key to winning the game for the Thunder.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.