Kings-Thunder Preview

As the Oklahoma City Thunder move closer to beginning the

playoffs, their major concern is the health of key reserve James


It’s unlikely that Harden will play in the Thunder’s two

remaining regular-season games at home, beginning with Tuesday

night’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings.

Harden was the victim of Metta World Peace’s vicious elbow

during the second quarter of Sunday’s 114-106 double-overtime road

loss to the Lakers. The Thunder swingman dropped to the court and

stayed down for about a minute before heading to the locker


Oklahoma City (46-18) hasn’t announced whether Harden, who leads

the NBA as a reserve with 16.9 points per game, has a


“I’m just happy my teammate is all right,” Kevin Durant said.

“It was a bad play. Hopefully Ron (World Peace) didn’t do it

intentionally or have any malicious intentions on that. We’ve got

to move past that.”

The Thunder led by 16 points after three quarters Sunday, but

were undone by poor shooting performances by Durant and Russell

Westbrook. Durant made 11 of 34 shots for 35 points and Westbrook

was 3 of 22 for 14, although he handed out 10 assists.

“I believe in Kevin, I believe in Russell, I believe in what our

guys do,” coach Scott Brooks said. “Some nights they’re not going

to fall for you, but if the execution is good and the shots are

good, you have to live with the results.”

Durant outscored the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant by nine as the race for

the NBA scoring title remains tight. Durant leads the league with a

27.91 average while Bryant is right behind him at 27.86.

Oklahoma City closes the regular season by hosting Denver on

Wednesday before Los Angeles plays its finale Thursday in


Facing the Thunder and Lakers to finish a sixth straight losing

season won’t be easy for the Kings (21-43), especially if DeMarcus

Cousins is unavailable Tuesday.

Cousins picked up his 13th technical foul, which comes with an

automatic one-game suspension, in Sunday’s 114-88 victory at

Charlotte. He and Bobcats rookie Bismack Biyombo drew a double

technical as they exchanged words while running down the court

after a Sacramento basket.

“It’s part of being DeMarcus Cousins,” said Cousins, who also

said he plans to appeal to the league.

The 26-point win was the largest margin of victory this season

for the Kings, who built a 22-8 lead eight minutes into the


“I thought we had the right energy from our starting lineup,”

coach Keith Smart said. “We got off to the great start that we

needed and we sustained it through the half.”

Sacramento won 106-101 over Oklahoma City in the first meeting

Feb. 9 before the Thunder responded with two victories in the

series by an average of 18.5 points this month. Durant is averaging

28.3 points and Westbrook 24.3 against the Kings in 2011-12.

The Thunder have taken six straight at home in the series.