Once is a mistake. Twice is a habit. Three times? Well, that’s a lifestyle. In its 104-89 loss to Sacramento in Thursday night’s preseason finale, the Thunder provided one final bit of confirmation that its way of life is currently one defined by deficient defense and disappointing effort.
The Kings became the third straight squad to run the Thunder off the court, joining Houston and San Antonio as teams that earlier this week defeated Oklahoma City by at least 15 points. The Thunder finished its seven-game preseason schedule at 2-5. And while the record doesn’t matter, the warning signs displayed throughout the past three blowout defeats certainly do. The Thunder allowed at least 10 3-pointers for the third time in as many games and has watched opponents shoot 50 percent or better from the field in each of the past four contests. Making Thursday’s thrashing more alarming was the Thunder yet again played with half-hearted effort, this time allowing Sacramento to impose its will from the opening tip. The Kings beat the Thunder to loose balls, forced Oklahoma City into turnovers and — when they weren’t draining 3s — turned the game into a layup drill. Sacramento led by as many as 31 points with its best player, guard Kevin Martin, listed on the injury report with a sprained ankle. The Kings also scored 22 points in the paint in the first quarter alone and finished with a 54-34 margin for the game. "We have room to improve,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "We can’t hide the fact that we’re not where we need to be.” Where the Thunder seems to be is at the corner of lost and baffled. Kings bench players Sergio Rodriguez and Andres Nocioni had their way with the Thunder’s defense, Rodriguez with his passing and Nocioni with his dead-eye shooting.