Thunder fails to seize opportunity
If you’re going to develop into a playoff contender these are the games you have to find a way to win.
In a road game the Thunder was actullay favored, a tough shooting night and the failure to box out on rebounds put them in a hole the entire game in a 101-98 loss to the Kings Tuesday night in Sacramento.
Yes, the Kings are 3-0 without their top player, Kevin Martin, sidelined two months following wrist surgery. But this is a team that probably will finish with one of the league’s worst records.
Now the road gets a lot tougher. Oklahoma City has three consecutive back-to-backs in a 10-day span. Five of the six games are on the road. Following tonight’s game against the Clippers in the Staples Center, the Thunder faces the Spurs Saturday night in San Antonio.
A rematch with the Clippers Sunday night is the only home game followed by a back-to-back next week at Miami (Dwyane Wade) and a more healthy, out-for-reveng Magic squad.
That’s why Tuesday’s game carried a little more importance. The Thunder’s defense was atrocious the first half (Sacramento shot 57.9) but improved dramatically in the second half (31.1 percent).
It still wasn’t enough on a night Oklahoma City shot 39.7 percent and was manhandled on the boards (51-35).
“We didn’t do a good job putting bodies on bodies,” said coach Scott Brooks. “We didn’t rebound the ball well. That’s the bottom line.”
That proved to be the difference.
The Thunder fell behind by 10 points but took its only second-half lead (69-68) late in the third quarter. They fell behind by nine in the fourth quarter, battled back to tie it at 86-86, only to have a 4-point Andres Nioconi play give the Kings the lead for good.
James Harden, who hit a half-court, buzzer-beater to end the first half — a play he’s sure to be remembered for his rookie season — said the one positive was the Thunder was in the game until the end despite some obvious shortcomings.
“We didn’t play as good as we wanted to but we still hung in there on the road,” Harden said. “If you stay in there until the fourth quarter you hope you can pull it out. It just didn’t go our way.”
Up next is the Clippers in the Thunder’s first back-to-back of the season.
“I love back-to-backs,” said Kevin Durant, who scored a season-high 37 points, including an 18-for-18 night at the line. “We can show the type of team we are. It’s a good test for us. It was a disappointing game but it’s good to know we have another one the next day. That’s the best thing about this league.”
The Clippers will be playing without Eric Gordon, their second leading scorer (18.9), sidelined by a groin injury. After getting battered on the boards by the Kings, the Thunder now faces the Clippers strong inside tandem of Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, one of the few teams to start two centers.
“We have to keep working and put (the loss to the Kings) behind us,” Brooks said. “We’ll definitely learn from this, come back tomorrow and need to give good effort.”
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