SACRAMENTO KINGS

Preview: Kings begin critical final week with showdown vs. Thunder

Apr 9, 2024, 8:35 AM | Updated: 1:53 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA - FEBRUARY 11: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings goes up for a s...

(Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

The final week of the 2023-24 NBA regular season has arrived.

Four games remain for the Sacramento Kings, each with an increased level of importance, starting with Tuesday night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Paycom Center.

Coming off a much-needed blowout win in Brooklyn on Sunday, the Sacramento Kings (45-33) are now within striking distance of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings–just one game behind the sixth-seed Phoenix Suns.

A win over the Thunder would surely help the Kings solidify themselves in the mix for the sixth seed, but a motivated Oklahoma City squad could extinguish those hopes on Tuesday night.

Entering play against Sacramento, the Thunder (53-25) sit one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City, which will be getting star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back from a four-game absence, will surely play with a heightened sense of urgency as it chases the idea of holding a home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

Can the Kings, who have already defeated the Thunder twice this season, secure another win and continue their push toward a playoff bid?

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Game Info

When: 5:00 PM PST

Where: Paycom Center  – Oklahoma City, OK

TV: NBC Sports California

Radio: Sactown Sports 1140 AM – Coverage starts at 3:30 PM on Game Night

Line: Thunder -5.5, O/U 226.5

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Thunder coverage, beginning at 3:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 5:00 PM PST tip-off from Oklahoma City.

The Return of SGA

The Thunder have missed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and they’ll get the MVP candidate back on Tuesday night.

After missing six of his past seven games (four consecutive) due to a quad injury, Gilgeous-Alexander is not listed on the injury report against Sacramento and appears to be set to return to the floor.

SGA’s return doesn’t change much about the Kings’ approach, who have already faced the All-Star guard three times this season. During those games, Sacramento–as have nearly all other teams in the NBA–has struggled to contain Gilgeous-Alexander:

3 games vs. the Kings: 38.0 PTS | 5.3 REB | 7.0 AST | 53% FG | 36% 3PT | 1-2 record

YouTube video

Allowing SGA to score at will typically results in losing efforts for opponents, as the Thunder hold a record of 14-2 (.875) when Gilgeous-Alexander scores 35 points or more. One of those losses came against Sacramento on December 14th, as the Kings overcame a 43-point effort from the guard en route to a 128-123 win.

Sacramento will have to hold Gilgeous-Alexander, the NBA’s third-leading scorer, somewhat in check if they want to head home on a winning note.

OKC’s Struggling Defense

With SGA sidelined, the Thunder haven’t possessed the same punch on defense as they did earlier in the season. Of course, the return of a front-runner for the All-Defensive First Team could help–but Gilgeous-Alexander can’t defend five players at once.

There have been holes in Oklahoma City’s defense, especially from three-point range, as the Thunder have allowed opponents to shoot an average of 43 percent from downtown over the past four games.

Opposing teams have scored 122.0 points on 52 percent shooting from the field during those four games, a trend that the Kings will look to continue against a sluggish OKC defense.

The Thunder are 6-15 (.285) this season when allowing 121 points or more this season, while Sacramento holds a record of 36-4 (.900) when scoring 120 points or more.

Backed By The Bench

With Sixth Man of the Year candidate Malik Monk (right knee MCL sprain) sidelined for at least the next two weeks–potentially through the NBA Play-In Tournament and first round of the Playoffs–the Kings’ bench has had to establish a new identity.

The return of Trey Lyles has helped Sacramento navigate this Monk-less stretch, as the forward is averaging 10.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on 47 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from three over the past five games.

Along with Lyles’ impact, third-year guard Davion Mitchell is providing the Kings with impact on both sides of the ball. While Mitchell has long been viewed as a defense-first guard, the Baylor product has showcased an increase in aggression and efficiency on the offensive end for an extended period.

Over his past eight games, Mitchell is averaging 10.5 points on 51 percent from the field and 52 percent from three-point range (3.4 attempts per game). The 25-year-old is now shooting a career-best 36 percent from beyond the arc this season.

With Lyles and Mitchell contributing, Sacramento is also getting a boost from rookie guard Colby Jones, who could see more minutes down the final stretch as the Kings continue to chase the postseason.

Jones, the 34th overall pick from last summer’s NBA Draft, holds the ability to be an above-average on-and-off-ball defender and a player that can help facilitate the offense.

One of Jones’ strongest attributes is his skill on the boards, as the 6’6 guard averaged 6.5 rebounds per game during 13 appearances in the G-League and 5.7 rebounds per game during his final season with Xavier in 2022-23.

Over 23 minutes of action during Sunday’s win in Brooklyn, Jones finished the night with seven points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks.

Sacramento needs impact from its guard spots, especially with Monk and Kevin Huerter (shoulder) sidelined. Jones should continue to see the floor along with Lyles and Mitchell as the Kings continue to get production out of its second unit.

Notes

  • During three games against Oklahoma City this season, Domantas Sabonis holds averages of 18.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 11.3 assists on 55 percent shooting from the field.

Kings vs. Thunder Injury Report

Sacramento

  • Malik Monk – OUT (Right knee sprain)
  • Kevin Huerter – OUT (left shoulder dislocation)
  • Jordan Ford – OUT (G-League)

Oklahoma City

  • Jalen Williams – QUESTIONABLE (left ankle sprain)
  • Gordon Hayward – OUT (Left Posterior Tibialis; Strain)

Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 9th – Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder – 5:00 PM PST
  • Thursday, April 11th – Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans – 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, April 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Phoenix Suns – 7:00 PM PST
  • Sunday, April 14th – Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers – 12:30 PM PST (End of regular season)

Postseason Schedule

  • Tuesday, April 16th-Friday, April 19th – NBA Play-In Tournament (Teams & matchups TBD)
  • Saturday, April 20th – NBA Playoffs begin

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