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April 20, 2012
Kings vs. Thunder: Five things to watch

The Thunder are still playing for a top seed in the playoffs and the best record in the Western Conference. The Kings are trying to avoid finishing with the worst.

With four games left, Oklahoma City is tied with San Antonio in the West with 45 wins. The Thunder (45-17) is a half-game back of the Spurs in the loss column.

Meanwhile, the Kings (20-42) are only a half-game ahead of the bottom-dwelling New Orleans Hornets.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on this evening when two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum meet at Power Balance Pavilion:

1. Can Tyreke Evans find some kind of rhythm on offense? In two of the Kings' last three games, Evans has scored five or fewer points. After a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, Evans said he isn't being as aggressive with the ball, partly because he's still figuring out how to get shots from the wing, where he goes when not the primary ballhandler on the floor. That's maybe nowhere more evident than in the five total free throws Evans has attempted in the past three games -- he's averaging 4.2 attempts per game this season.

2. Will Marcus Thornton play? The Kings didn't have a shootaround this morning, so we haven't had an update on Thornton's status for tonight. He didn't practice yesterday, and head coach Keith Smart said Thornton was getting treatment to reduce swelling in his left quad, where he was kneed by Manu Ginobili on Wednesday night. A similar injury kept him out of seven games earlier in the season. Thornton has averaged 18.6 points in his last five games since missing a week with a bruised calf. When he has been out, the Kings have missed him. They are 1-10 this season when playing without Thornton.

3. Make the Thunder work for shots. Oklahoma City is a perfect 17-0 this season when it shoots 50 percent or better from the field. The Kings rank last in the NBA in opponents' field goal percentage, allowing a league-high 47.6 percent. The Kings will want to keep the Thunder from getting too many easy transition baskets. The Thunder had 24 fast-break points when these teams played in Oklahoma City last Friday.

4. The Kings can't have lapses. The Kings were playing the Spurs close on Wednesday night until San Antonio went on a 13-4 run early in the third quarter. Those damaging three-to-five-minute stretches have plagued the Kings this season, and a good team like the Thunder or the Spurs -- who ended up winning that game by 25 points -- can capitalize on that type of run.

5. Might things get chippy inside? Tonight's game pits the league's top two technical foul recipients this season in the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins and the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins.



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