OKC Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings Pick
OKC Thunder (19-10, 16-13 ATS) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-14, 19-10-1 ATS)
When: Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 – 10:00 pm ET
Where: Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, CA
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OKC -4.5/SAC +4.5 (MyBookie)
To celebrate the holiday season, let’s countdown with a fun NBA fact or statistic related to the number of days left until Christmas:
7 – The two greatest words in sports: Game 7. The NBA has had some incredible ones over the years: Bill Russell’s 11th championship win in a Game 7 as the underdogs in his farewell tour, the Heat comeback Game 7 after Ray Allen’s Game 6 3-pointer, Magic overcoming Isiah Thomas’ 3rd quarter heroics in 1988, the Willis Reed Tunnel game in 1970, and the Kyrie Irving step-back 3 to sink the 73-win Warriors. Unfortunately, Michael Jordan was too good to ever let any of his Finals get to a Game 7. What a selfish man.
Last Night in the NBA
For future reference: #RevengeGame > #RedemptionGame. LeBron was up to his usual shenanigans, but D’Angelo Russell was slicing up 1st Team All-Defense Lonzo Ball all night, and the Lakers whimpered out of Barclay’s with another bad loss. Elsewhere in the NBA, Larry Nance finally got the Cavaliers a victory, John Wall came crashing back down to Earth, and the Serbian-Slovenian war reached a fever pitch in a wild bout between Jokic and Doncic.
As our 3-game win streak reaches a woeful end, let’s soldier on to a delicious 12-game Wednesday night slate. With less than a week until Christmas, the action is heating up, and we get a sneakily good West Coast match-up between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the surging Sacramento Kings. The Thunder are currently favored by 4.5-points over the hometown Kings with the total set to a sizzling 236 points. A losing streak? Bah, humbug!
He May Thunder, But If He Blunders…
Despite their excellent record, there’s a couple of reasons to be cautious about OKC’s long-term potential as a Western Conference contender. They’ve made their living on their defense, but the offense has been mediocre to below-average, and the same can be said of their superstar point guard. Westbrook is unsurprisingly averaging a triple-double on the season, but he’s scoring the fewest points per game and shooting the worst from 3-point land since his sophomore season in the NBA. Westbrook had his pre-season knee surgery and his multi-game absence from an ankle injury, so he may just still be trying to work his way back into form. Must be nice to be able to average 20-10-10 in the NBA while trying to get yourself back in shape. What a guy.
To get past the fresh-faced Kings, however, the Thunder might need to focus more on the O in OKC. In their two previous games against the Kings, they allowed 131 and 117 points, and they’ll need to keep pace if their D fails them again. Unfortunately, OKC missed the memo about the 3-point boom, as they rank near the bottom of the NBA in attempts and dead last in terms of 3-point efficiency. Sacramento has some nice pieces up top, and in order to take advantage of their no-name second unit, OKC would do well to stagger Russ and PG to keep one on the floor at all times. The Thunder employ capable shooters, and a 3-point regression to the mean is coming soon. In a game versus the 21st ranked defense, there’s no reason why that can’t be tonight.
Next Coach Fired
It seems crazy that a team that is on pace to double its projected win total is in line to fire their coach, but the relationship between Dave Joerger and the front office has gone nuclear. De’Aaron Fox is currently in the middle of a break-out sophomore season, and 24 hours after calling him “the next Russell Westbrook,” Joerger decided to play him 6 total minutes and allow his second-unit to get blown off of the floor. There’s teaching moments – and then there is just being a complete a**hole. Joerger’s bags are packed, and it’s sad to see a solid year turn sour with front office tension. Only the Kings.
If Joerger can manage not to have another public meltdown, Sacramento may actually be able to pick up a signature win at home tonight. The Thunder have an imposing defense, but the Fox and his Hounds have climbed all the way to 11th in Offensive Rating. Buddy Hield has turned into the steal of the Boogie trade, and he’s their secret weapon versus OKC. With De’Aaron tangled up in Westbrook, Paul George will be stuck to either Hield or Bogdanovic, and one of them will need to step up to help Sac pick up their third win this year versus the Thunder. Unfortunately, Sacramento’s outside attack may be stymied by OKC’s 5th-ranked 3-point defense, and they’ll need a more downhill style of play to offset the stingy perimeter D. If the Kings guards have an off game (or inexplicably get benched), it’s going to be a long night..
I want to believe in the Kings more than anything, but that game on Monday left such a sour taste in my mouth. De’Aaron Fox is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA, and they have enough pieces around him to keep this game interesting. The Kings have already come away with the first two games in this series, and I think that they will be hard-pressed to collect a third. Westbrook might be edging towards the wrong side of 30, but he takes great pride in these Master vs. Padawan games, and I think he sees De’Aaron as a threat to his throne. Between Joerger’s wonky coaching tactics, the Thunder’s struggles to date versus the Kings, and Sacramento’s lack of talent in their second unit, I think that tonight is the night that Russ and PG-13 properly introduce the young Kings to the NBA. Blink and you’ll miss them in this game, and look out for a vintage monster Russell Westbrook game. He’s due.
Final Score Prediction: OKC Thunder 131 – Sacramento Kings 120