Scott Brooks spent the past two days spewing warnings about how good the Sacramento Kings are. The Thunder’s coach tried to tell anybody who would listen, without rolling their eyes, that the Kings are better than their record, that they have a potent mix of firepower on the perimeter and in the paint.
For the first 18 minutes, Sacramento actually showed it might be deserving of Brooks’ praise … and then the Thunder turned it on. After the Thunder traded baskets with the Kings in the first quarter, never leading or trailing by more than three points while inexplicably allowing Sacramento to hang around, OKC eventually just outgunned the Kings, using a 29-9 run to blow open the game before cruising to a 115-89 win on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder led by as many as 32, tying its largest lead this season, before seeing its 26-point margin of victory come one point shy of its most lopsided win of the year, which came against Charlotte on March 10. “Oklahoma City is on a different level right now, and you have to match their physicality,” said Kings coach Keith Smart. “If you do not match it, you are going to be pushed all around the floor. The tone was set early in the game, and we never recovered. It was a close game until about four minutes into the second quarter, and then the wheels fell off from there.” The Thunder turned a 38-35 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to go in the second quarter into a 67-44 ballgame with 9:48 left in the third quarter. Included in that surge was an 18-2 spurt that dismantled the Kings. Oklahoma City forced Sacramento into missing eight of nine shots while pressuring the Kings into turning the ball over three times during that decisive five-minute stretch. “When we are engaged defensively, we get stops and we make teams miss,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “That’s how we have to continue to build our team. I thought that second quarter was as well as we can play. Everybody was dialed in and physical and showed a lot of defensive toughness.” Russell Westbrook punctuated the game-changing run when he finished a fast-break with an unbelievable one-handed flush off an alley-oop from Kevin Durant.