“I just said he wasn’t going to hit those shots all night,” said Perkins, who got the bulk of the duty. “He’s a gifted player, so you got to expect him to come out and keep shooting. I just said as long as I keep him taking contested 2s, eventually he was going to have to miss one.”
Before Westbrook got rolling, the Thunder struggled. Oklahoma City got off to a terrible start early in the first quarter, trailing 23-9 midway through the period thanks to lapses on defense and lots of misses on offense. At that point, it looked like Cousins was headed for the exact type of big game Thunder coach Scott Brooks repeatedly said before the contest that OKC couldn’t allow him to have.
Cousins coupled with Kings power forward Jason Thompson to score 18 points with seven rebounds in the first quarter, helping Sacramento rack up 18 points in the paint in the period.
But that terrible start only set up a terrific finish to the frame. The Thunder went on a 14-3 run to pull within three with 1:45 remaining in the period. Westbrook scored or assisted on 10 of the Thunder’s points during the spurt. He found Martin on back-to-back 3-pointers and capped the run with a dish to Nick Collison off a pick and roll.
The Thunder trailed by three at the end of the first quarter but took control in the second, outscoring Sacramento 31-21 to take a seven-point halftime lead. Westbrook scored eight of his points in the period, while Durant and Martin both chipped in nine.
Most of Westbrook’s damage as a playmaker came in the third quarter, when he registered eight assists, tying a team record for assists in a period, and leading the Thunder to its largest lead of the night.
With his work long done, Westbrook didn’t need to log a single second in the final period.
Oklahoma City finished with 27 assists on 37 made field goals and shot 48.7 percent.
“We were passing up good shots to get great shots,” Durant said. “Guys were sacrificing shots.”
The Thunder is now 9-1 after a loss and moved a step closer to completing this franchise-record six-game trip on the exact high note it seeks. A Sunday matinee game against the Los Angeles Lakers is now the last remaining hurdle.
“Just like we talk about during games, you’ve got to finish strong. You’ve got to have a great fourth quarter. You have to get the final stop,” Brooks said. “It’s the same thing on a road trip.”