Pick OKC Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings
Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5, 10-5 ATS) vs. Sacramento Kings (8-8, 9-6-1 ATS)
When: Monday, November 19th, 2018 – 10:00 pm ET
Where: Golden 1 Center – Sacramento, CA
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OKC -2.5
Last Night in the NBA
Not to toot my own horn, but…toot toot! 51 points on 51 shots is No Bueno for the KD-Klay duo, and the Spurs were able to toss the Warriors into the torture chamber and hand them their fourth loss in five games. Final Score: San Antonio Spurs 104 – Golden State Warriors 92. Kyle Cash Prediction: Spurs 104 – Warriors 94. Come with me if you want to profit.
Let’s keep the ball rolling tonight by taking a trip up California’s capital in Sacramento, where the Kings are taking on the Westbrook-less Thunder in a Monday night NBATV match-up. Russ is expected to be back by Wednesday, but for now, he’s welcoming the birth of his twin daughters with his wife. Congrats to one of my favorite players – get some sleep and get back on the court ASAP. Despite his status being solidified, as I handicap this game Sunday night, we’re still without a line or a total, so let’s go ahead and have some fun and break this one down in generic terms. Autobots – rollout!
Here we go again! The Thunder have stormed back from their miserable start, and even without Russell Westbrook, they are firmly entrenched in the hunt for a top-4 Western Conference seed. They have managed to climb all the way up to 11th in Offensive Rating while playing their typical stingy defense (3rd in Defensive Rating), and Paul John Ringo George has inserted himself back into the conversation for best two-way player in the NBA. In the six games since Westbrook went down, George has averaged 26 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals on 46/39/87 shooting splits. Small sample size, but the only players to average 25 points/8 rebounds/4 assists/2 steals over a full season? Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. So yea, Paul George has had a helluva run. Kudos to him.
Against the Kings, the Thunder should have no problem on either end of the floor. Don’t let Sacramento’s 8-8 start to the season distract you; this is a bad team, and they’re only going to get worse. Sacramento currently allows the fifth-most points per game and has the 20th best Defensive Rating, and their rotation is only getting deeper and more inconsistent. To have an elite NBA defense, you need great athletes, quality coaching/scheme, and a consistent rotation. Sacramento is 1-for-3 at best, and Oklahoma City is going to be able to score on them at will.
Even with Dennis Schroder running the show, the Thunder have kept up their torrid pace. The Thunder had won five in a row before Russ went down, but they have still gone 5-1 in his absence. Part of that is schedule-related; Phoenix twice, Cleveland, Dallas, the Knicks, and the out-of-sorts Rockets is not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents. But we can toss the Kings into that scrap heap as well, and there’s no reason that OKC shouldn’t be able to dispatch them and make another notch in their bedpost.
Long Live The Kings
If you’re a fan of college basketball, watching the Kings is like a stroll down memory lane. Sacramento has 10 guys that you would’ve categorized as “big time recruits at a blue blood collegiate program.” Seriously, look at this!
I am enjoying everything that the Sacramento Kings have to offer, and I will love them even more next year when Coach Calipari is their coach and running them into the ground with his moronic basketball ideas. Give me that content, baby.
The Kings do not have their 1st round pick this year (it’s going to either the Sixers or Celtics), so they have no incentive to be bad. That always makes for interesting television; there’s something extremely enticing about watching a bad team try their hardest to win. It’s like watching a little kid teeter to their feet, run a few steps, and then fall down on their face. It’s adorable and hilarious, and you can’t help but feel bad for them and want to help them.
Against the Thunder, the Kings still have a couple of aces up their sleeves. De’Aaron Fox is the only member of the 2017 NBA Draft to show signs of improvement in his sophomore season, and he’s blossoming into a superstar before our very eyes. Willie Cauley-Stein is playing his ass off as he counts the dollars in his upcoming free agent contract, and the rest of the guys play hard in the minutes that they actually get to play. Sacramento’s best bet to pull out a victory is to dominate the pace and make it a track-meet. OKC is extremely top-heavy right now, and if they’re forced to get guys rest, I like the Kings chances a lot more. The more Hamidou Diallo and Terrance Ferguson there is – the better it is for the Kings.
Four Factors of Winning
Since we’re all about finding the edge here at Predictem.com, let’s take the time each day to dive into the stats that lead to winning basketball games. According to a theory posited by Dean Oliver, a win in basketball can be narrowed down to four factors: shooting, turnovers, rebounding and free throws. Each day, I will take a look at the areas that each team excels at or is susceptible to, and we will see if we can find a specific reason why Team A will beat Team B.
With Steven Adams patrolling the offensive boards, it’s no surprise that the Thunder are the best in the league at generating second-chance opportunities. Most of their statistical strengths, however, come from the defensive end: they defend without fouling, they force more turnovers than anyone but the Grizzlies, and they’re in the top-11 in both opponent’s effective field goal percentage and defensive rebounding. The Thunder have taken the mantra “defense wins championships” to the n-th level, and all of the reasons that they win games can be found there.
It’s more of a mixed bag for the Kings. Led by De’Aaron Fox and his improved jumper, the Kings are all the way to 6th in the NBA in effective field goal percentage. However, they are one of the worst in the league at generating shots from the charity stripe, and those shots are called “free throws” for a reason. The elite teams in the league live at the line, and it’s a sign of a veteran team to generate free throws in times of offensive strife. At a glance, it looks as though the key to victory for the Kings lies in their ability to break down the Thunder’s defense and get buckets. Look for this one to vault over the point total – whatever it may be.
The safest bet on the board is the over. The Thunder have a great team defense, but the home team usually dictates the pace, and it’s hard to hold a team under 100 points when they’re able to shoot 100 times. The Kings play at the league’s second fastest pace, and they do so at every time of the game: after a made shot, after a missed shot, after a turnover. They don’t discriminate. With one of the league’s fastest players running the show, it’s no surprise that their strategy revolves around pushing the pace, and the points are going to pile on in this one (unless both teams go cold – can’t rule that one out with my luck). My best bet for the game is going to depend on the line, but I would feel comfortable betting Sacramento if they are getting any points – I think this game is going to be close. If Oklahoma City gains the underdog status (unlikely), I would probably lean their way. If it’s a pick ‘em, it’s a stay away. Choose your own adventure, my friend. God speed.
Final Score Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 117 – Sacramento Kings 116