Three things about the Sacramento Kings put a mild scare into Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Isaiah Thomas. Rudy Gay. And DeMarcus Cousins.
All three average 20 points, and, to Brooks, that meant at any moment either of them could erupt for 35.
But Thomas, the diminutive but dynamite point guard, missed the game with a quad injury. The other two, Gay and Cousins, couldn’t combine to muster 20 points. And with Sacramento’s three biggest scoring threats neutralized, the Thunder waxed the Kings, 94-81, on Friday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points on a tremendous display of efficiency, hitting nine of his 11 shot attempts, including three of four 3-pointers and all eight of his free throws. He added six assists. Russell Westbrook added 18 points, five rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes. Both got to rest the entire fourth quarter, even as the Kings trimmed a 32-point lead to 16 before the Thunder’s bench ultimately closed it out.
Cousins, the Kings demonstrative and, at times, disgruntled center, finished with four points on 2-for-8 shooting. It was his second-lowest scoring night of the year. His season low is two points.
“We wanted to make sure that we stayed between him and the basket,” Brooks said. “It sounds simple, but that’s hard to do against this kid. He’s an aggressive player. He’s a very talented big in this league. We did a good job.”
Gay scored just seven points, converting only three of his 11 shot attempts. It was Gay’s second straight forgettable trip to Oklahoma City. The last time he came to town, he scored six points on 3-for-7 shooting before his frustrating night ended in an ejection.
For the Kings, it was simply that latest in a string of disappointing visits.
Sacramento still is winless in Oklahoma City. The Kings are 0-11 against the Thunder in OKC. They went 0-3 here when the New Orleans Hornets called OKC home from 2005-07.
The Kings shot just 36.5 percent and eclipsed their season-low output for scoring by just two points.
They never led.
Oklahoma City led by as many as 22 in the first half before taking a 16-point lead into the half. From there, the Thunder ran and hid, turning the third quarter into a virtual slam-dunk contest.
The Thunder made 12 of 16 field goals in the quarter. Ten of the team’s makes were point-blank buckets, either layups or dunks. Five were layups. The other two baskets were 3-pointers.
Eleven of OKC’s 12 made field goals in that decisive period were assisted. None were prettier than the pair of alley-oops shared by the team’s two stars. First, Westbrook found Durant on a backcut from the right block. Durant then returned the favor by lobbing a pass high into the air for a streaking Westbrook to finish in spectacular fashion with a two-handed flush. They were part of a 16-2 run the Thunder used to end the quarter and take a 31-point lead into the final frame.
“Our setups were good,” Brooks said. “We were moving the basketball. We were coming hard off of screens. We were looking for each other on all of our pick-and-roll actions. And we have some good players.
“Offensively, we’ve been really good this year. I thought we had another growth about a month and a half ago of really playing good basketball. And we’re passing the ball the best we ever had. We continue to work on that end, but we still have to focus on what we do defensively.”