The wins just keep rolling in for the Thunder, as the team has surged to the best record in basketball. I wrote before the last game that winning the turnover and rebounding battle are often meaningless achievements for Oklahoma City's opponents because the Thunder shoot so well. As it turned out, New Orleans had a lower turnover percentage, a better offensive rebounding percentage AND forced Oklahoma City to have one of its worst shooting nights in a while. And the Hornets still lost.
That has to be disconcerting for Sacramento, which has struggled almost as much as New Orleans. The Kings had shown signs of life with a recent three game win streak, but consecutive double digit losses have put Sacramento back in its familiar spot in the cellar.
The Kings do not do anything particularly well, but they are most abysmal when it comes to free points. The team ranks 23rd in the NBA with a .189 free throw-to-field goal attempted rate. They are even worse on defense, allowing the second highest opponent FT/FGA percentage of .254. Given that Oklahoma City can kill teams from the charity stripe, Sacramento could be in trouble tonight.
The High Cost of Sacramento's Scoring
Based on effective field goal percentage allowed, which accounts for the fact that a three point shot is worth more than a two pointer, the Thunder have the third best defense in basketball. Facing the Kings, they could get even better tonight.
There is a mismatch in Sacramento between the players who score a lot and the players who score effectively. DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Marcus Thornton rank first, second, and third in scoring on the team, but rank tenth, eighth and seventh respectively in eFG percentage. Cousins' eFG% of .436 is the lowest of any starter, while Thornton attempts 5.4 three pointers per game and hits just 32.7 percent of them. The scorers' numbers on this team are like a Hummer. They might look cool at first glance, but the low MPG/eFG will cost you.
The Thunder should have plenty of motivation going into this game. A win over the Kings would give them a ten game winning streak, the longest in their time in Oklahoma City. It would also keep their momentum strong heading into tough games against San Antonio and Atlanta.