Oklahoma City (17-46) at Kings (14-49)
Scoring: Kings 14th (99.5), Thunder 21st (97.9)
Shooting: Kings 26th (44.7 percent), Thunder 22nd (44.95)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.4), Thunder 23rd (103.3)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.0 percent), Thunder 26th (47.43)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-5.3), Thunder sixth (plus-2.63)
The link: Thunder coverage in the Oklahoman; Kings coverage in The Bee.
The almanac: On this date in 1961, Wilt Chamberlain became the first NBA player to score 3,000 points in a season while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors. On this date in 1963, Chamberlain, playing for the San Francisco Warriors, scored 70 points in a 163-148 loss to Syracuse, one of six 70-plus point games in his career. On this date in 1985, Dallas coach and former Kings coach Dick Motta became the fourth NBA coach to record his 700th career victory as the Mavericks beat New Jersey 126-113. On this date in 2002, Utah point guard John Stockton registered 13 assists in a 95-92 loss to Houston to improve his career assist total to 15,000 and become the only player in NBA history to reach that plateau.
They're rooting for local boy Blake Griffin in Oklahoma City while hootin' and hollerin' for the local Thunder, too, and those contrasting messages clearly have this team conflicted.
Four wins in five games for former Kings assistant and interim Thunder coach Scott Brooks and his squad has pulled the Thunder a tad further from the likelihood of landing Griffin come June, when the Oklahoma product who won four state titles at Oklahoma Christian High School will be the likely No. 1 and the Kings surely hope he goes a long way from home ("Welcome to Cali, Blake, even if you're nowhere near the surf's-up zone. You like train museums?").
Oklahoma City's surge has come without Kevin Durant for all five games and without Jeff Green for four. The absence of both players to injury (Durant ankle, Green back) may have revealed potential chemistry and flow problems that may have been there all along with this bunch. Durant and Green are and should be the core pieces, to be sure, but something's going right with their running mates with them gone and it'll be up to Brooks to maximize the masses when they return (no Durant tonight and Green is questionable). Translation: Keep everyone involved and don't force-feed Durant to the point of bringing the offense to its knees. Brooks was here when Ron Artest and John Salmons would share floor time, after all, so he has seen that act before.
It will be interesting to see how the Thunder finishes, as there is motive to entertain and excite the loyal new fan base but also incentive to pair Durant with a frontcourt freak like Griffin. Eleven of its final 19 games are on the road, where the Thunder is 4-26 this season. Thirteen of the 19 games come against "playoff" teams (quotations because I included Chicago and Milwaukee, teams that are vying for the final spot in the East).
Brooks would love to win in his home region for the first time as a head coach, as the Manteca native watched in agony as his team fell 122-118 in overtime at Arco Arena on Feb. 1. The Thunder defended its home floor Feb. 8, winning 116-113 when Durant had 39 points. - Sam Amick