Thunder 103, Kings 92
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s win at Sacramento.
- The Kings play hard. You’ve got to give them that. Especially out here in Sacramento. They never make it easy on the Thunder, and tonight was a prime example. Although the game really never was in doubt, the Kings hung around all game and threatened to upset the Thunder yet again in the final minutes.
- Here’s how tough the Kings play OKC in Sacramento. In eight games against the Kings in Sacramento in the OKC era, the Thunder is 5-3. The five wins have come by an average margin of 5.6 points. This was the first double-digit victory.
- Kevin Durant came up just shy of a triple-double yet again. He finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, all game-highs. It’s the fifth time this season that Durant has finished at least three assists shy of a triple-double.
- Said KD on seeking his first triple-double: “Man, I’ve been flirting all season with it. I ain’t sealed the deal on it yet. Hopefully I get one before my career is out.”
- How cool would it have been if Durant notched his first triple-double while Oscar Robertson, Mr. Triple-Double himself, watched from a courtside seat near halfcourt? KD on The Big O: “He’s a legend. Somebody I really look up to. I don’t think it’ll ever be a guy like Oscar Robertson. It’s just a joy to play in front of him tonight, and I’m glad we got the win in front of him.”
- Isaiah Thomas is unfreakingbelievable.
- The Thunder’s defensive rebounding and turnover problems cropped up again tonight. OKC allowed 17 offensive rebounds on the night and 15 in the first half. The Thunder also turned it over 17 times, but watched them lead to just 14 points. Those two definitely will have to be cleaned up before Sunday.
- Amazingly, the Kings converted just two of their 13 second chance opportunities into points. This could have been a different ballgame had Sacramento finished better.
- Speaking of finishing, I think DeMarcus Cousins set a record for missed dunks/layups tonight.
- Give credit to Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins for their efforts down low. They played a huge part in shutting down the paint for the Kings. Perk bodied up and played physical down low, and Ibaka rejected shot after shot before finishing with eight on the night. The sequence late in the first half when the Thunder forced the Kings into missing four straight bunnies — and were credited for two blocks — pretty much summed up the effort by Perk and Ibaka. That combined effort preserved a six-point lead and helped the Thunder go into halftime up eight.
- Perkins said he will not appeal the tech he got in Phoenix. He has no interest in trying to get it rescinded and actually said he deserved it for jawing with Robin Lopez.
- Overheard tonight from two local guys, perhaps Kings employees, talking about Thunder coach Scott Brooks: “We could have had him as out coach.”
- I spoke with Brooks before the game about his benching of Russell Westbrook in Phoenix to get some clarity on it. But Brooks downplayed the incident and made it clear he was moving on. “I just took him out of the game,” Brooks said. “That’s it. We had the game in a good place. I just took him out. They took Steve Nash out like a minute before that. I took him out.” I can respect the way Brooks chose to handle it. The last thing Thunder fans want or need is a Howard-Van Gundy type soap opera. But regardless of how Brooks explains it publicly, it was a pivotal moment. Brooks has never yanked Westbrook in that fashion. Even the Dallas “benching” in the conference finals last year was different. This time, Brooks looked to be sending a message. And he was sending it to his All-NBA point guard. To me, possessing the power to do that and do it effectively whenever needed, no matter the player, is an important and needed step in the maturation of Brooks as a coach if he is going to be the guy.
- Brooks also reiterated before the game that he has no plans on sitting players. But I’d expect to see him limit minutes in the season finale, if not the final two.
- Felt bad for Reggie Jackson tonight. He drew the short end of the stick and became a victim of the smallest visitor’s locker room in the league. His laminated travel name plate was taped to a closed door leading into the training room. A chair sat in front of the door. Jackson’s clothes were folded beneath and around the chair. His bag sat by his clothes side. It was Jackson’s makeshift locker.
- Cole Aldrich confirmed to me tonight that he does indeed plan on playing in summer league.
- Daequan Cook badly air-balled a corner 3 tonight. He might have gotten fouled. It looked like it, but I couldn’t really tell. But I’m afraid he’s inconsistent playing time has destroyed his rhythm. Better hope that doesn’t linger into the playoffs. Keep an eye on it.
- Here is your scoring race update: Kobe Bryant is averaging 27.89 points, or 1,590 points in 57 games. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.79 points, or 1,751 points in 63 games. I’ll let you do the math from there to get a breakdown on what’s needed for Durant to win the title.
- I casually brought up the race to KD after the game and he reiterated that he doesn’t care about it one bit. It’s very much admirable of Durant to put that individual accomplishment on the backburner for the good of the team. But, dude, just go get it.
- Someone pointed this out to me on Twitter and demanded that I include it in the Rumblings. Bryant has played in six fewer games than KD but has taken 92 more shots. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. Kind of takes away from Bryant’s scoring title if he does indeed win it.
- The Thunder is now 3-1 on this five-game trip. You’re seeing that this team is perfectly fine, as I said it was after the Clippers debacle. Yes, this win came against a Kings team tied for the worst record in the conference. But you saw a ton of positives tonight. More of that on Sunday and it’ll be proven that all the bellyaching was overblown. But even with a loss in the final game of this trip, the Thunder would finish 3-2, which seemed to be a reasonable, if not likely, scenario when this journey began. And even then, it won’t mean much. Frankly, we’ve reached the point where all that matters is the playoffs.
- I can’t wait for Sunday.
- Up next. At the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
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