Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings Preview (1/20/23): Prediction, Starting Lineups, Odds

The Oklahoma City Thunder (22-23) travel to face the Sacramento Kings (25-18) in a battle between scorching hot teams. The usual suspects are out for the Thunder: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Ousmane Dieng. On the other side, Terence Davis is questionable due to an illness.

Which win streak will stay alive? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineups are below.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings Betting Odds

The Kings are favored here, as the spread is -5.5 with a -200 moneyline. Oklahoma City must win at least 36% of the time for their +180 moneyline to be profitable. The over under is at a massive 243 total points, which makes sense given the pace and explosive offenses involved.

The Thunder easily rank 1st this season ATS at an incredible 64.4%, and they are 50-22-3 ATS in their last 75 games following an ATS win. However, the Kings are 2nd ATS this season at 58.1%. It’s a battle between perpetually underrated squads.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings Prediction

I’m taking the Thunder to cover +5.5 and their +180 moneyline. Oklahoma City has turned a corner; over their last 20 games, they are 6th in Net Rating and 3PT%.

The Thunder relentlessly attack the paint and place tremendous stress on the rim. They rank 1st in drives per game, 2nd in finishing at the rim frequency, and 5th in cut frequency. The main culprit is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30.5 PPG), who is absolutely unguardable. His funky stop-and-start style throws defenders off, and his core strength means he absorbs contact, maintains balance, and contorts his body to achieve any angle. At 6’6”, he’s taller than most of the opposing guards and appears to glide to the basket.

Per ShotQuality, the Kings rank 21st defending the rim, 28th defending isolation, and 27th defending mid-range jumpers. Their mediocre point of attack defense won’t slow down Shai in the slightest, and Sacramento doesn’t have the rim protection personnel to compensate. Josh Giddey’s superb court vision and quick-decision passes will also exploit any Kings defender who is a step behind, so the Thunder likely feast on cuts.

Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray have been solid defensively, but they are accustomed to guarding catch and shoot threats. While Luguentz Dort and Jalen Williams will launch from three, they are bulldozers who excel at shot fakes followed by a drive similar to a running back hitting the A Gaps. Considering their already lacking rim protection and rim deterrence, the Kings defense (which is 24th in Defensive Rating) holds a gloomy outlook tonight.

On defense, the Thunder are far more capable of stopping the Kings than vice versa.

Sacramento’s offense relies heavily on dribble handoffs, cuts, and three-pointers. Movement and screens are key for them. Per BBall Index, Oklahoma City’s defense ranks 8th in ball screen navigation, off-ball chaser defense, and passing lane defense. Opponents are struggling to gain any advantage on the perimeter; however, when they do penetrate, the disciplined Thunder rotate so well that the advantage is often snuffed out immediately. Despite lacking a rim protector or even an actual center, they are 4th in rim defense per ShotQuality.

While Gilgeous-Alexander is the offensive engine, Dort heads this terrifying defense. Although he guards elite offensive weapons every night, Dort disrupts any action because he is one of the best screen navigators and off-ball chasers in the NBA. Due to his frame, Dort cannot be moved via a traditional screen; he leads the league in illegal screens drawn as a result. While he won’t follow De’Aaron Fox the entire game, Oklahoma City can frequently throw Dort at him to limit his production. Meanwhile, the Thunder are filled with tall guards and forwards that make it extremely difficult to swing the ball effectively. I expect the Kings to still generate solid catch and shoot three-point attempts, but the frequency won’t be to the degree that they are accustomed to.

To cap it off, both teams are transition heavy offenses. However, the Kings rank 20th in transition defense, while the Thunder rank 6th. (per ShotQuality).

Overall, the Thunder and Kings both own explosive offenses, but Oklahoma City’s defense far surpasses a frequently pathetic Kings defense. I’m happily grabbing +5.5 Thunder, and remember, they only have to win 36% of the time here to make a theoretical profit on their +180 moneyline. That’s a steal!

Betting Trends

  • Thunder are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games overall
  • Thunder are 50-22-3 ATS in their last 75 games following an ATS win
  • Kings are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall
  • Thunder are 1-5 ATS in the last 6 meetings

Key Matchups

Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.

Bench Battle

Oklahoma City’s starting lineup has deservedly received a ton of praise, but their bench is flying under the radar. Wiggins and Bazley are disruptive defenders, and Isaiah Joe is torching opponents from three. Muscala also brings size and spacing, while Mann is the traditional microwave scorer who can create his own shot. The Kings also have weapons off the bench – Mitchell, Monk, Davis, Lyles, Holmes – but Oklahoma City has the slight advantage. If the Thunder can win these minutes, then their cover chances look great.

Sabonis Rebounding

Because the Thunder are forced to play small with Holmgren, Robinson-Earl, and Pokusevski unavailable, opponents can bully them on the boards. Oklahoma City subsequently ranks 30th in opponent offensive rebound percentage. The Kings are not a great offensive rebounding team, but Sabonis occasionally exerts his will and creates a tsunami of put-backs. If Sacramento can control the glass, it would boost their offense while also limiting the Thunder’s transition offense opportunities.

Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG: Luguentz Dort
SF: Josh Giddey
PF: Jalen Williams
C: Kenrich Williams

Sacramento Kings Starting Lineup

PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Kevin Huerter
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Keegan Murray
C: Domantas Sabonis

Key Injuries

Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (O), Aleksej Pokusevski (O), Ousmane Dieng (O), Chet Holmgren (O)

Sacramento Kings Injuries: Terence Davis (Q)

Post
Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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