Game 26 Preview: Kings vs. Thunder

The national TV spotlight shines tonight on the Sacramento Kings, who return home having won three of their last four games.  They’ll have their hands full with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who boast the NBA’s best record at 20-5.  And with the league’s relocation deadline looming (again), tonight sets the stage for a fight off-the-court that’s just getting started.

Gametime: 7:30 pm PST

Broadcast Information: Radio – Click here.  Television – TNT

For Thunder perspective, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog Daily Thunder.

Kings Probable Starters (9-16)

Tyreke Evans Marcus Thornton John Salmons Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings return from a two-game road trip where they split contests in New Orleans and Minnesota.  John Salmons and Jason Thompson both struggled in the back-to-back set.  After reaching double figures in the previous three games, Salmons scored just two points in Tuesday’s loss to the Timberwolves.  Thompson, meanwhile, totalled just 11 points and five rebounds in Minneapolis and New Orleans after posting three consecutive double-double contests.  However, the bench stepped up admirably in their slumps.  Jimmer Fredette and Donté Greene combined for 24 points off the pine in Minnesota, while Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points and tallied six assists in New Orleans.

Thunder Probable Starters (20-5)

Russell Westbrook Daequan Cook Kevin Durant Serge Ibaka Kendrick Perkins

With a Western Conference Final appearance under their belt, Oklahoma City knows how to handle the big stage.  The Thunder have won 15 of their last 18 games and bring the best NBA’s best record to Sacramento.  They erased a 12-point deficit entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, winning 119-116.  The duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each scored 30-plus points in the effort.  It was the 13th time in their careers such a feat was accomplished.

Video: Scott Brooks after morning shootaround talks to reporters about the atmosphere of Power Balance Pavilion.

Brooks is a native of Lathrop and spent one season (2006-07) as an assistant with the Kings.

3-on-3 Roundtable

You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.

Royce Young of Daily Thunder and Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm join me to preview tonight’s Kings/Thunder match-up.

1. Match-up to watch?

Royce Young: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Kendrick Perkins. Perk has built a reputation for being one of the best low post defenders in the league, but Cousins has a really well developed game inside. Plus, I think there’s a good chance the two might try and strangle each other at some point.

Matt Moore:  DMC vs. Perkins: Because this is like 500 lbs. of just flat out mean and unpleasantness. Scowl factor is through the roof.

Jonathan Santiago:  DeMarcus Cousins vs. Kendrick Perkins.  Cousins was outplayed Tuesday against Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Cousins can’t let Perkins, who is a solid defender, get in his head.  Avoiding silly fouls on the Thunder center will also be critical.  The Kings can’t afford to have Cousins in foul trouble nor can they afford to have Perkins at the free throw line, where he shoots a steady 76.9 percent.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Royce Young: Rebound differential. The Thunder are a team that’s prone to giving up a large number of offensive rebounds and with Cousins’ ability to get on the offensive glass, the Kings will look to win this one by grabbing extra possessions. The Thunder can win while being outrebounded because they’re so good offensively, but it better not be a wide margin.

Matt Moore:  TOR: Only way the Kings have a shot is if they turn the Thunder over and get them playing fast, loose, sloppy ball. Similarly if Sacramento plays out of control they’re sunk before eFG% even becomes a factor. This is one area that’s a weakness for OKC, and SAC is at least decent there, so they need to exploit it.

Jonathan Santiago: Rebound differential.   Oklahoma City is an average rebounding team.  They ranked 24th in defensive rebounding percentage and 17th in offensive rebounding percentage.  However, they are 10-1 when they outrebound their opponent.  Sacramento has the size to dominate the glass and should use it to their advantage.

3. Fact or Fiction: A raucous crowd at Power Balance Pavilion plays a significant role in tonight’s game.

Royce Young: Fiction, with a little fact to it. The Thunder have the best road record in basketball and just survived crazy atmospheres in Portland and Golden State, but if the Kings start building momentum, the crowd could factor in by pushing the home team over the top. I don’t think the crowd will have a large effect on the Thunder, but it could on the Kings.

Matt Moore:  Fiction: The Thunder goes into tougher arenas than PBP at this point (but not back in the day when Arco was very much like the Thunder’s arena in terms of raucousnes) and get wins. Not going to rattle OKC with that crowd.

Jonathan Santiago:  Fact.  With the  national spotlight on California’s capital this evening, Power Balance Pavilion will certainly be rocking.  The fans are planning to pull out all the stops to show the rest of the country and the NBA why Sacramento deserves its Kings.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.