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News » Thunder-Kings Preview 2009-11-09

Thunder-Kings Preview 2009-11-09

Thunder-Kings Preview 2009-11-09Kevin Durant's continued emergence has the Oklahoma City Thunder taking positive steps in his third season. The Sacramento Kings may be making progress even quicker than they expected behind their own budding star.

Rookie Tyreke Evans looks to lead the Kings to a third straight victory Tuesday night as they host Oklahoma City, which will try to build on a shockingly lopsided win.

The Thunder (3-3) had been hoping Durant's presence at the center of their young core would propel them toward contention this season, and Sunday's 102-74 victory over Orlando may have been their most positive sign.

While Durant was 11 of 17 from the field for 28 points, with point guard Russell Westbrook chipping in with 17 points and 10 assists, it was the team's effort at the other end of the floor that gained the attention of Durant.

"All things were clicking for us tonight, especially on the defensive end," Durant said. "We've got to build on that and come back to work tomorrow."

Oklahoma City snapped a three-game losing streak by holding the Magic to 36.8 percent shooting from the field. The Thunder's opponents are shooting 43.7 percent, one season after Oklahoma City ranked 27th in the NBA in that category (47.5).

"Teams that play hard have a chance to get a lot better," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They're playing a lot harder at the defensive end of the floor than they did last year."

Sacramento was even worse defensively last season, ranking last while allowing opponents to shoot 48.3 percent - a big reason it was an NBA-worst 17-65.

But after losing their first three games, the Kings have won three of four, posting back-to-back victories without leading scorer Kevin Martin.

Martin will miss at least two months with a broken wrist, but Evans may already be ready to step into a leading role for Sacramento (3-4). After scoring 32 and adding seven assists in a 104-99 win at Utah on Saturday, the 6-foot-6 point guard scored 23 and grabbed eight rebounds Sunday as the Kings beat Golden State 120-107.

"Honestly, I don't want to go overboard about a guy who's just played his seventh game but sometimes we just drop our mouths at some of the plays he makes," first-year Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "He's a very special player."

Evans, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, was 5 of 16 from the field and scored 10 in a season-opening 102-89 loss at Oklahoma City on Oct. 28.

"I was struggling the first couple of games, but now I have a better feel for what's going on," Evans said. "I've got my rhythm back and I'm letting the game come to me and not rushing anything."

He has also had plenty of help, as fellow rookie Omri Casspi notched his first career double-double against the Warriors while forward Jason Thompson achieved the feat for a third straight game with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

That front line may need a better defensive effort than it had against the Thunder last month, when Durant, forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic combined for 69 points.

The Thunder were without Durant when they won 99-98 at Arco Arena on March 10.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 9, 2009


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