Thunder Knocks Off Kings In Sacramento
Observations from Monday’s 120-112 win over the Sacramento Kings
- This wasn’t exactly how the Thunder wanted to win. But it was significant that the Thunder did win. Thunder coach Scott Brooks wanted to see his team show some mental toughness in the second night of a back-to-back after a big win at L.A. against the Lakers. That’s exactly what OKC did.
- Here’s what Brooks said about his guys afterward: “They are tough. I believe our toughness is much better. We are mentally tough and we are getting physically tough.”
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrookhave now had big games on consecutive nights. They may be building momentum as postseason play nears.
- The third quarter turned the tide in this one. After trailing by six at the half, the Thunder came out and outscored the Kings 36-26 in the period. OKC held Sacramento to 6-for-26 shooting (23.1 percent) while making 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) of its shots. That frame sparked a 7-1 run to start the fourth, helping the Thunder open a 10-point lead.
- Serge Ibaka was the difference-maker in the third. He had 12 points and three blocks in the period. His interior defensive intensity helped the Thunder snap out of a first half in which it allowed Sacramento to shoot 53.7 percent from the floor. With Ibaka going nuts down low, the Kings went 1-for-12 from the paint.
- Ibaka’s six blocks gave him a four-block lead on Washington’s JaVale McGee for the league lead in total swats with 195. It’s sort of amazing what Ibaka has done this season for it to only be his second year and him to still be just 21.
- With the win, the Thunder swept seven back-to-backs this season. The team had 17 this season. Draw your own conclusion, but I think that’s pretty good.
- Why doesn’t anybody talk about the Thunder being 19-4 since the start of March?
- James Harden deserves a lot of credit tonight. He was downright awful in the first half, missing four of five shots and doing little of anything else of substance. He could have easily said ‘it’s not my night.’ But in the second half, Harden bounced back with 10 points, all in the fourth quarter, five rebounds and some nice defensive pressure. Eight of his 10 fourth-quarter points came during an critical stretch in the first four minutes of the period where the starters were out and the Thunder entered the quarter with only a four-point cushion. Harden helped bump that to 10 in that 7-1 run, and it stood at seven with the starters returned.
- Nazr Mohammed’s offensive game has really been impressive. It’s been the biggest surprise of the second half of the year. He had 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting, all in the first half. The guy has got a few moves and a somewhat reliable mid-range J.
- Tyreke Evans didn’t play in this one because of a sprained left ankle. His replacement, Beno Udrih, had himself a ball game with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals…and still was outplayed by Westbrook.
- Westbrook’s come-from-behind steal on Udrih with 4:39 left in the second was as good as it gets. Watching it unfold live, Westbrook looked like a video game character. You could see his determination to get the ball back by any means necessary. He busted his butt to catch up to the play, poked it away from Udrih and darted the other way for a nice layup. Very impressive hustle.
- Never thought I’d see DeMarcus Cousins attempt and make more free throws (18 of 21) than Durant (15 of 17).
- I felt really bad for Kings fans. Signs were all through the building showing support for the Kings staying in Sacramento. Chants of “Sacramento” and “Here we stay” filled the arena throughout the night. It really stinks seeing franchises ripped away from fans. And if you experience it live, as an innocent bystander who isn’t emotionally invested, it’s incredibly surreal.
- It’s also incredibly ironic that Thunder chairman Clay Bennett was in the building to witness all of that. I know that had to be uncomfortable. (It’s worth noting that Bennett also was in L.A. for the Lakers game. Still.)
- The Thunder was burned by turnovers on this two-game trip. Lakers scored 20 points off 13 Thunder turnovers. Kings scored 23 points off 19 turnovers. You’d like to not turn it over. But giveaways happen. The points off them, however, needs to be cut by about half.
- I don’t think Kings fans were too happy with the officiating. I heard the loudest boos I’ve ever heard at an NBA game tonight. With the way the future looks for this city’s NBA team, I thought some liquored-up idiot was going to attack a ref at any moment.
- As pointed out to me by someone on Twitter, Kendrick Perkins is now 1-for-56 on alley-oop passes. Unofficially, of course. He can thank Westbrook for blowing a bunny tonight.
- This is an amazing playoff race in the West. With one game left in the Thunder’s season, it can still move up to second. For that to happen, OKC needs the Lakers to lose Tuesday against San Antonio and Wednesday at Sacramento, as well as Dallas dropping its finale against New Orleans. That would put the Thunder in second, the Mavs in third and the Lakers in fourth.
- If the Lakers win their final two and Dallas loses its final game, that would make L.A. second, the Thunder third and the Mavs fourth.
- If the Lakers win at least of of their final two and the Thunder wins Wednesday, resulting in both teams finishing tied, the Lakers would have the tiebreaker because they won the head-to-head matchup, 2-1. If that happened, and Dallas won its season finale, the Mavs would be second, the Lakers would be third and the Thunder would remain fourth.
- Somebody check my math.
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