Kings gunning for rare series victory against Thunder
SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings will seek to clinch their first season-series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in 11 years when the Western Conference rivals meet for the third time this season on Wednesday night.
After having won just eight times in 37 meetings over the previous 10 seasons, the Kings surprised the Thunder 131-120 on the road in October, before duplicating their success with a 117-113 home win last month.
Sacramento also beat Oklahoma City twice in the 2016 season, which earned the Kings a split in their four-game series.
Otherwise, before this season, the Thunder had dominated the rivalry dating back to a 3-1 Kings win in 2008.
Both teams had Tuesday off, which was a welcome relief for the Kings, who were coming off a 132-105 thumping at the hands of Minnesota on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday.
After having seen his team win 120-113 at Dallas the night before, Kings coach Dave Joerger pulled the plug on his starters early against the Timberwolves, saving their energy for another day.
The Kings might be a young team, but afterward they seemed to grasp the concept of allowing one game to get away for the greater good.
“So far, we’ve had a great season,” noted Kosta Koufos, one of the backups who benefitted from the tactic with 23 minutes off the bench. “We have a good team coming in with OKC, so we need to look forward to that one.”
Westbrook has averaged 30.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, missing triple-doubles by two and three assists, while George has poured in an average of 28.0 points.
The Kings, meanwhile, have gotten two surprisingly productive games from Iman Shumpert (26 and 23 points), but otherwise used different means to record the wins.
They shot 54.9 percent in the win at Oklahoma City, and later held the Thunder to 41.7 percent shooting in the home win.
The Thunder has since righted its ship, winning nine of 13, including two straight at home leading into a two-game trip.
The season is going so well, Oklahoma City management announced it was picking up the option on coach Billy Donovan’s contract for the 2020 season.
“That’s exciting, man,” Westbrook gushed to reporters Tuesday. “Billy’s been nothing but great for our organization, for myself. He’s been very understanding when he first got here and the same now. Excited to have him back.”
Both teams enter the game on a nice offensive roll.
The Kings, who have alternated wins and losses in their last four games, have scored 104 or more points in 16 of their last 17 games, topping 120 in six of their last 10 outings.
They are 8-3 this season when scoring 120 or more.
Meanwhile, the Thunder has gone for 110 or more points in eight of its last nine games.