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The better-than-you-realize Thunder takes on the reeling Kings, while the Knicks continue to try and put together their season against the frisky Wolves. NBA expert Jonathan Macri is here with his predictions and picks for Tuesday night.
ANALYSIS

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction: Will the Real Tankers Please Stand Up?

When: Tuesday, December 28, 10:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBA League Pass

Spread: Kings -5.5

Total: 219.5

Kings vs Thunder Odds

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Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction

This season wasn’t supposed to go this way for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Outside of maybe Houston and Orlando, there wasn’t a single team in the NBA that figured to make more of an all-out assault on the top of the draft lottery than OKC. Armed with more picks than they knew what to do with and a roster loaded with inexperience, some predicted that they’d challenge for the NBA’s all-time futility mark by the time all was said and done.

A 1-6 start didn’t do much to quell those fears, but when the Thunder followed up those early struggles with four straight wins, our antennas should have gone up. There have been other signs that you don’t normally see from teams racing to the bottom, like when the Thunder covered the first five games of what would go on to become an eight-game losing streak at the end of November. Zooming out, even more, Oklahoma City has quietly been the third-best team in the NBA against the spread, and that’s despite starting off the year 0-3 ATS.

So why do we continue to view them as the lowest of the lower class? Look no further than their overall margin of negative 7.6, good for fourth lowest in the league, and a margin against the spread that is in the red despite 21 covers against just 11 drops. That disparity is caused by the fact that so many of their losses have been bad losses – none worse, of course, than their 73-point shellacking at the hands of the Grizzlies, but also six more by at least 19 points. They also don’t have many big wins, with just three victories by a double-digit margin, and none higher than 14 points.

And through it all, here they sit after Christmas with the same distance between them and the top of the standings as the team they play tonight. The big difference, of course, is that the Kings have been trying to win. At least allegedly.

It hasn’t quite panned out that way. After their latest embarrassing loss, interim head coach Alvin Gentry said afterward that he’d never been so humiliated in 34 years in and around the NBA. It was Sacramento’s seventh loss in nine games both on the scoreboard and against the spread. Looking back over the last nine games for both them and the Thunder, we see that OKC is 6-4 with a negative 2.0 net rating, while the Kings are 3-7 with a figure of negative 8.1.

And yet, despite all of the above, the Kings are favored here. Don’t be fooled by the perception that OKC is something less than they really are, or that Sacramento is better than the sad truth reveals. Take the points on the road.

Kings vs. Thunder Pick

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New York Knicks Prediction

When: 8:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: NBA League Pass/MSG

Timberwolves vs Knicks Odds

It’s not every day that someone who was banished from the rotation comes back to win Player of the Week almost immediately upon being reinserted back into the lineup, but that’s what happened with Kemba Walker.

After spending 10 games on the bench, the absence of any other healthy point guards on New York’s roster necessitated a reversion from head coach Tom Thibodeau. Walker has more than answered the call, not only putting up good numbers in the process but taking the reins for an offense that had struggled to craft an identity that didn’t involve Julius Randle pounding the rock without nearly the same success he had last year.

Things still aren’t perfect – New York’s 3-point defense is regularly exposed, and they live and die by their outside shooting as much as any team in the NBA – but for the first time since the very beginning of the season, there is some hope that this won’t be a lost year.

But they need to rack up some wins and fast. This marks the first stop in a four-game road trip that will likely determine just how seriously we should take New York moving forward, and they open against a Wolves team that just beat the Celtics on the backs of a bunch of guys most NBA fans have never heard of (or at least haven’t heard of in a while. Greg Monroe, signed off the street earlier in the day, came up huge in the win).

It’s unclear whether Minnesota will have any of its big three for this game, and until we know that, this is probably a stay away. If you must though, take the Knicks. The Walker thing feels real, and after hitting rock bottom about a week ago, almost all of their key pieces are now out of protocols. They know this road trip will define their season, and the bet is that they’ll be ready to take advantage.

Timberwolves vs. Knicks Pick

Article Author

ROI N/A
NBA

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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