The Sacramento Kings have won five straight games and are headed home to take on the only other team I can claim to truly love – the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, yes, I apologize to all of my regulars here for the embarrassing moment, but my basketball wife and basketball mistress have finally come head to head to fight it out, and folks, the only winner (outside of, you know, the winner of the game) is me. Can the Kings hope to contain the uncontainable Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Does Poku even know that I exist? You really think so? Do you think he would – ah, screw it, we can talk about this after the preview!
Let’s talk Kings basketball!
When: Friday, January 20th, 7:00 PM PT
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
TV: NBC Sports California
Radio: Sactown Sports 1140
For Your Consideration
Giddey for This Game: The Oklahoma City Thunder are not supposed to be here, at this spot in the West, at this point in the season, at this juncture in their rebuild – they just aren’t supposed to be here. Ask 99% of all arm-chair GMs and NBA talking heads alike, and they’d tell you: the Thunder WILL be tanking, the Thunder WILL be in the running for Victor Wembanyama. Hell, I love this team and if you’d have asked me prior to the season, if you’d have asked me prior to Christmas, I’d have told you the same thing. This is a development year for the Thunder, and boy howdy, have these kids been a-developin’.
Take this with a massive grain of OKC salt here, but the number of pearls clutched about the Oklahoma City Thunder rebuild could make a king-sized bed of clams blush and nothing in basketball Twitter (outside of rooting for the Lakers) has given me more second hand embarrassment than reading generally reasonable people ponder loudly about how long Adam Silver would allow the Thunder to do what they do before valiantly stepping in and saving the fans from the most egregious tank job since The Process – handwringing about a team that was the 5th seed in the West in the ’19-20 season because Sam Presti took a path that he knew maximized his chances of bringing a sustainable winner back to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With half of the season still left to play, I don’t want you to mistake this as a victory-lap for those who have enjoyed seeing what the Thunder have done. With the parity in today’s Western Conference, there’s still plenty of time for a quick sink into some incredible odds at a franchise-altering player, but I will say this:
For those of you saying you could never support a tank job like the Thunder, boy do I have news for you!
The Thunder are good and the personal and national nightmare of basketball traditionalists might soon be over… permanently.
Currently led by All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the youngest team in the league is currently sitting at 9th in the West, just a win below .500 and sporting the easiest remaining schedule in the league according to Tankathon. This Thunder squad sits above the incredibly expensive, incredibly volatile Timberwolves, above the much hyped and suddenly misaligned Blazers, above the bad vibes and badly injured Suns and above the Lakers squad that the Kings just went down to the wire against. Is it likely that someone in that group below them swings a trade, or gets it together after the All-Star Break and pushes the Thunder out of that spot? Oh sure. I’ll probably praise Sam Presti for giving the NBA a preview of the devastation of what’s to come when Poku and Chet Holmgren are playing together next season. But it won’t stop the fact that the Thunder are going to be here, be true players in the West and for a good long while, much sooner than some had anticipated.
Okay let’s talk about the game for a second. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is absolutely an All-Star lock in my mind, taking his knack for scoring and turning it into a full blown obsession with it. The kid feels absolutely inevitable most nights at this point, jumping his scoring six points a game higher this season to 30.5 a night, while averaging basically 5 rebounds and 5.5 assists to go along with it. His running mate, Josh Giddey, is averaging 16 points, 8 rebounds and 5.9 absolute dimes night in and night out. The kid is absolutely clicked into his role in the NBA and it’s fantastic basketball to watch when he’s on. This backcourt is 6’6 and 6’8 respectively. We give Orlando a long of hardy-hars about being long bois, but Shai and Giddey are absolutely terrifying with their size. I’ve got so many words to write about this team and so little time to do it now, so take solace in knowing I’ll have at least a couple more opportunities to gush about them this year. Special “keep your eyes on” shout out to Jalen Williams, the 6’6 shooting guard rookie that is should definitely wind up on the first team All-Rookie squad by season’s end.
This is going to be a very fun game to watch. The Thunder at 7th in the NBA is scoring and 5th in the NBA in pace so the Kings should be in for a high scoring affair, especially if Domas can get over what is ailing him. They’re 20th in the NBA in opposition’s points per game but 10th in defensive rating so, just know, these kids are bought into Mark Daigneault’s designs for them and working their asses off to execute. They’re a top ten rebounding team, top five in steals, seventh in blocks, but on the other hand they’re bottom five in fouls which gives way to being the second worst team in opponent free throw attempts. They’re young, they get out there for steals and blocks and wind up fouling – a tale as old as time.
Okay, I’m out of here.
Goddamn, I’m excited to watch this game.
No game is played this night. They meet at center court, they shake hands, they sit in the marketplace of ideals and talk out there differences and the Kings agree to be the winners of the match because OKC argues they’ve had the longer playoff drought and deserve the best shot possible at ending it. Peace in our time.
Kings: 1, Thunder: 0