Oklahoma City (4-5) are trying to gel as a team with so many new faces on the roster. The Thunder added All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to their line-up in the offseason to play alongside triple-double record holder Russell Westbrook. All three are averaging 20 points or more per game with George at 21, Anthony at 20.6 and Westbrook at 20.1. Westbrook has four triple doubles in the team’s first nine games, after posting a record-high 42 during last season.
Sacramento (1-8) are off to a horrendous start. The Kings were beaten by 27 points twice last week during a span of three games, prior to losing to Detroit on Saturday, 108-99. Zach Randolph and George Hill were brought in during the offseason to give them much-needed experience, yet their additions have done little to prevent a disastrous first few weeks of the season. Rookie guard De’Aaron Fox leads the Kings in scoring averaging with 12.7 points per game, and there are few notable contributions beyond that.
Three keys to the game
Thunder’s chemistry – The Thunder have undergone a big change since last season with the additions of Anthony and George. With three top players in the league on the same roster, egos are always center stage and the star trio has had to set those aside as the team works through early season adjustments. It’s definitely a work in progress as the Thunder sit 4-5 despite being tipped to dominate alongside the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference.
Young mistakes – Sacramento are a very young team. Fox is their leading scorer but is averaging less than 13 points per game. He is also leading the team in assists at five per game. Three of the five starters for the Kings are between 19 and 23 years of age, and each will have to learn quickly if they are to lead their team out of the current rut.
Thunder defense – Oklahoma City are allowing just 97.1 points per game, ranking second in the NBA. They will be facing a very inexperienced Sacramento team that are scoring just 93.8 points per game, which ranks 29th in the league.
Matchup to watch
Russell Westbrook vs George Hill – Westbrook has become one of the most dynamic players in the league and continues accumulating triple-doubles. He will be up against a very tough defender in Hill. If Hill is able to keep Westbrook in check, then he will force the other Thunder players to step up and take over the offense. If Westbrook is allowed to roam, this will be another blowout at the Kings’ expense.
Thunder projected starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Andre Roberson | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – George Hill | SG – Garrett Temple | SF – Bogdan Bogdanovic | PF – Zach Randolph | C – Willie Cauley-Stein
George is leading the Thunder in scoring and has averaged 5.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He will be up against an inexperienced Bogdan Bogdanovic and could take advantage of the mismatch.
Sacramento have talented players, but they are young and inexperienced. The Thunder on the other hand are loaded with talent and experience. The Thunder are a solid choice to cover the spread as 10-point favorites in this game.
Oklahoma City will have the game in hand early and win comfortably, 123-94.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports OK and NBCSCA. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm ET from Golden 1 Center.
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