By Randy Renner
The Oklahoma City Thunder begin a three game homestand tonight against a team that has never beaten the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
In fact the Sacramento Kings have lost eight straight overall to the Thunder, 10 straight on the road and 17 out of the last 19 these two teams have played.
That doesn't mean all the games have been blowout easy for the Thunder, many have actually been nail-biting close.
Like for instance the last time they played here when little point guard Isaiah Thomas went off for a career-high 38 points, many of those coming during a scorching first half. The Thunder then switched defensive whiz Thabo Sefolosha onto Thomas and shut him down, leading to a Thunder win.
Sefolosha isn't available tonight but Thomas might not be either. Thomas has a bruised quad and had to sit out the Kings loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. His availability for tonight isn't known right now.
Thomas (20.7 ppg) is one of three Kings averaging more than 20 points a game this season. Rudy Gay (20.3) and DeMarcus Cousins (22.5) are the others. Cousins is also averaging 11.8 rebounds a game.
So the Kings have some guys who can hurt you, their biggest problem this season is something the Thunder have struggled with off an on, defense.
On Wednesday the Kings allowed the Knicks to shoot 54.8 percent and go 15-for-26 from 3-point range.
"We know what they wanted to do but we have to go out there and execute (defensively)," Cousins said after that game.
Kings head coach Michael Malone wasn't pleased after Sacramento had held its previous seven opponents below 50 percent shooting. The Kings are in for another tough task as Oklahoma City is among the league leaders with 106.2 points per game and 47.1 percent shooting.
"If you (allow) 55 percent from the field and 58 percent from 3, you're not going to beat many people in the NBA," Malone said.
Yesterday after the Thunder's practice, point guard Russell Westbrook admitted he's disappointed in his efforts on the defensive end.
"Yeah, I am. I've just gotta be better. I'm lettin' too many guys off the hook. Just lettin' them feel too comfortable bringing the ball up the floor running what they want."
And then Westbrook got very candid and pointed a finger right at himself. "I'm just sittin' back, just chillin'. I gotta be able to set the tone early and defend for my team."
He'll have that chance tonight, especially if Thomas is back for the Kings.
- The Thunder clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season last night. Dallas losing to the Clippers assured the Thunder of a spot. Where that spot ends up being is still up for debate. They begin today three games behind the Spurs in second place in the Western Conference and two games ahead of the Clippers.
- OKC's next two opponents, Sacramento tonight and Utah Sunday afternoon, have combined for fewer wins (48) than the Thunder have by themselves (52).
- Kevin Durant has scored at least 25 points in 36 straight games, the longest such streak since Michael Jordan put together a 40 gamer in the 1986-87 season.
- The Thunder are 10-2 in games played on Fridays
- Oklahoma City has struggled with injuries this season. The regular starting five has played only 20 games and the Thunder are 17-3 with the regular lineup.