Mavericks (22-14) at Kings (8-29)
Scoring: Kings 21st (96.6), Mavericks 11th (100).
Shooting: Kings tied for 22nd (44.4 percent), Mavericks 17th (45.1).
Scoring defense: Kings 27th (105.6), Mavericks 15th (97.8).
Shooting defense: Kings 26th (47.3 percent), Mavericks tied for fifth (44.2).
Rebound differential: Kings 28th (minus-3.6), Mavericks ninth (plus-1.4).
The links: Mavericks coverage in the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The almanac: On this date in 1967, San Diego was granted a franchise, to be called the Rockets. The team moved to Houston in 1971. On this date in 1984, the Nuggets beat the Spurs 163-155 in the second-highest scoring non-overtime game in history. Golden State and Denver combined for 320 points on Nov. 2, 1990. On this date in 2001, the Knicks lost to the Rockets 76-75 but held an opponent to less than 100 points for the 29th consecutive game, a record. The streak snapped the 46-year-old mark set by the Fort Wayne Pistons.
The Kings are at eight. We've got ourselves a race, and who would have thought OKC at Arco Arena on Feb. 1 and March 10 and Sacramento at the Ford Center on Feb. 8 could be so meaningful.
It's mostly a status-symbol thing for now, this opportunity for the Thunder to pull itself from the basement and become something other than a punching bag and for the Kings to go from aggravating, alienating and real bad to officially the worst team in the league. An actual, recorded bottoming out, as opposed to this joy ride of the past few months.
The meaning will turn tangible much later in the season if the jalopy race holds and we get to measuring ping-pong balls for the worst record at the end and the greatest chance of lottery victory, But for now, the Thunder is winning and the Kings are losing and 30th place is easy to see from Natomas.
It doesn't have to be the Kings replacing the Thunder, and obviously it doesn't have to be anybody. The seven-win Wizards are still closer and the Warriors also have eight and just pulled off the impressive double of losing to Oklahoma City and Minnesota in consecutive outings.
One big difference: Washington and Golden State have a better chance to improve. The Wizards should get projected starters Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Brendan Haywood (wrist) back at some point and the Warriors should get catalyst Monta Ellis (ankle) back at some point. Both teams have been without their best player all season, Arenas and Ellis, and not exactly fearsome squads to begin with and are basically even with the Kings. The Wiz and the Ws have reason to see help coming over the horizon.
That turns Kings-Thunder into the showdown. OKC winning three of the last six to join the pack makes it so.
The Kings have the hope that things will get better, just because. The same belief exists in Oklahoma City. Except that the three leading scorers there- - second-year forwards Kevin Durant and Jeff Green and rookie point guard Russell Westbrook -- are 20, 22 and 20 years old, respectively. It is fast-based belief.
Westbrook in particular is having more encouraging stretches in the move to primary ballhandler for the first time in his college or pro career, as opposed to the choppy 2008-09 that could have marked a challenging transition. The Thunder should get better the longer the roster is together and gains experience.
That doesn't even weigh the potential impact of trades. OKC could do a deal, but the Kings are far more likely to do one that would involve dispatching a starter or even the leading rebounder, Brad Miller, on a team that already can't rebound. So the Kings have a greater chance to get worse. Better in the long run, but worse for the moment. A Thunder deal would probably be more along the lines of Earl Watson or Chris Wilcox.
- Oklahoma City in games decided by three points or less: 2-4.
- Sacramento in games decided by three points or less: 1-5.
- Oklahoma City in overtime games: 1-0.
- Sacramento in overtime games: 0-3.