Sacramento’s lost four straight and they begin a stretch of seven of the next eight games on the road. They start the gambit in Oklahoma where the star-studded Thunder await them on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Kings are coming off back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Clippers which sunk them to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Willie Cauley-Stein put up 23 points and 13 rebounds, but the Clippers jumped out to a big lead early and coasted home.
OKC is playing tremendous defense, but they still haven’t figured out how to put it all together. Russell Westbrook’s numbers are steadily climbing as he adapts to additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. This team is in the middle of the pack in the west, but they are one hot streak away from jumping up in the standings.
Thunder by 11.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH
De’Aaron Fox vs. Russell Westbrook: Take 2 -- Fox seems to have turned a corner since returning from injury. But the 20-year-old will guard one of the toughest assignments in the NBA. Westbrook is fresh off an MVP season and he’s getting dangerously close to averaging a triple-double on the season.
WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 13-29, fifth place in Pacific
Thunder: 23-20, second place in Northwest
Kings: PG Frank Mason III (heel) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out.
Thunder: SG Andre Roberson (knee) questionable.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Youth Movement -- Dave Joerger has slowly turned to his younger players as the season’s gone on. Fox is starting at the point and Cauley-Stein is playing a big role on the front line, but Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield are starting to see an increase in minutes as well. Players are developing, but it doesn’t always look pretty.
Get a Body on Him -- Steven Adams is a beast. The giant out of New Zealand plays physical and he’s strong as an ox. Someone is going to have to keep a body on him or he’ll dominate the glass all game long. Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and maybe even Georgios Papagiannis have their work cut out for them.
Live in the Moment -- Games like this against superstar players can be overwhelming for young players. The Kings need to stick to the game plan and play each possession like it’s their last.
The Kings shocked OKC in early November, coming away with a 94-86 win at Golden 1 Center. The Thunder hold a 142-86 all-time lead over the Kings and an 85-50 advantage in the Sacramento-era.