Oklahoma City Thunder: Victory over Kings valuable
On the surface, a victory over the hapless Sacramento Kings, on a night when Scotty Brooks rested his starters in the fourth quarter and the Thunder seemed distracted anyway, would not be a big deal. But the Thunder’s 118-110 victory actually had some value going into the playoffs.
Starting with Daequan Cook. Cook’s amazing fourth quarter — 19 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range — was a pleasant surprise. Cook had been mired in an awful slump. In the five games since OKC played at Sacramento on April 13, Cook had made just two of 10 3-pointers. And you know if Cook isn’t making 3-pointers, his value is slim.
Cook has missed nine games this season with a sprained knee. But earlier in the season, he was in the starting lineup for the injured Thabo Sefolosha. Before his March 20 injury, Cook played 43 games. He played less than 10 minutes in only three of those games, and he played 9:55 in one of those three. But in the 12 games Cook has played since the injury, he’s played at least 10 minutes only four times.
Cook’s playing time has been lessened by Thabo’s return, but also by the signing of Derek Fisher. Scotty Brooks has used Fisher not only as Russell Westbrook’s backup at point guard but also as an off-guard, particularly when the Thunder goes small.
Cook the last two seasons has provided the Thunder with instant offense off the bench. It takes about 15 seconds to discover if Cook has his hot hand on any particular night, so on certain nights, Brooks can ride Cook to a few huge 3-pointers. That luxury has disappeared in recent weeks.
The Thunder needs Cook’s marksmanship. He’s a hot-and-cold shooter, but when Cook is hot, he’s a momentum-changer. Cook scored 18 points in 18 minutes in a playoff victory over Memphis last season. Without Cook, the Thunder second unit has struggled to find points outside of James Harden. Cook’s return to a more expanded role would be huge for OKC.
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