Durant, Westbrook too much for Cousins, Kings

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Durant, Westbrook too much for Cousins, Kings

April 11, 2011BOXSCORE KINGS VIDEONBAPAGE NBASCOREBOARD

SACRAMENTO (AP) Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are no longer just a young team happy to make the playoffs, they are convinced they are legitimate NBA championship contenders this season."We're growing up, We hold ourselves to a higher standard now," said Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring this season.It was another strong effort for Durant, who had nine of his 32 points in the fourth quarter against Sacramento in Oklahoma City's 120-112 win over the Kings on Monday night.Russell Westbrook had 30 points and nine assists for the Thunder, who beat the Kings for their fifth straight victory.Oklahoma City (55-26) has clinched the Northwest Division and will be seeded no worse than fourth in the playoffs. The Thunder trail Dallas by a game and the Los Angeles Lakers by a half game.The Thunder, who had an emotional road win Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, are 16-3 since losing to the Memphis Grizzlies on March 7.They conclude their regular season Wednesday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, while Dallas meets New Orleans.Despite the strong finish over the past six weeks, Durant said it won't mean much once the playoffs begin this weekend."It's very important (how we finish), but we also know that what we did in March and April is all out the door once the playoffs start," said Durant, who made four free throws in the final 41 seconds to secure the victory.The Thunder will head into the playoffs with Kendrick Perkins handling the middle. Since arriving in a trade with Boston on Feb. 24, he has brought a toughness and defensive presence to a team that lacked it a year ago."I see this team really starting to play together," said Perkins, who had six points, three rebounds and blocked two shots."We're starting to think defense first. We keep improving and we have a bunch of guys who are hungry. They like to win and take losing hard."Despite a dismal record and a possible move to Anaheim looming, the Kings (24-57) played inspired before a boisterous crowd of 15,683 that at times showed its verbal support by chanting to keep the team in Sacramento.Rookie center DeMarcus Cousins made 18 of 21 free throws and had a career-high 30 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped six straight to the Thunder. Marcus Thornton had 21 points and nine rebounds, Beno Udrih also scored 21 and Jason Thompson added 16."(The move) is not something I'm thinking about, I'm a Sacramento King," said Cousins, whose free throws made and attempted were both records for a rookie in the Sacramento era. "The only thing I'm thinking about Wednesday is finishing this season with a bang. Like I said, I'm a Sacramento King."Serge Ibaka, who moved into the starting lineup when Jeff Green went to Boston, had 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Thunder, who trailed by six points at the half.James Harden scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter when the Thunder converted 16 of 17 free throws to hold off the Kings."It was great to come in here and get a win on the road in back-to-back games," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "This is not an easy place to play. They have been playing good basketball. We knew that we were going to be in a good game tonight."If the Thunder win and the Mavericks lose, Oklahoma City moves into the third slot because it defeated Dallas 2-0 in the season series. The Lakers have two games remaining, including the season finale in Sacramento."The Lakers was a big win, but it was even bigger to come in here tonight and keep it going," said Westbrook, who added six rebounds, two steals and a block."We're ready to go once the playoffs start. We're older and know what to expect this year."The Kings quickly opened a 10-point lead early in a high-scoring third quarter that was both physical and fast paced.Scoreless in the opening half, Ibaka scored 12 points in the third and Westbrook had 11. Durant's 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave the Thunder an 87-83 lead.The Thunder went on a 7-1 run to open the fourth and built the lead to 101-89 by the 8:55 mark. Inspired by their fans, the Kings kept the game within reach.The Kings cut the lead to 114-110 on Thornton's 3-pointer, but Westbrook answered with a jumper with 55 seconds left to put the Thunder ahead by six.The Kings played without last year's rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans, who sprained his left ankle in Sunday's victory over the Golden State Warriors. Evans said he would play against the Lakers.Notes: The Kings are 11-29 at home and must defeat the Lakers on Wednesday night to avoid tying the worst home record in franchise history. The Kings went 11-30 in 2008-09. ... Thunder backup center Nazr Mohammed made all five shots and had 10 points, five rebounds and five fouls in 18 minutes.

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

OAKLAND -- It was with impeccable timing, for the Warriors and for Andre Iguodala, that he has spent recent weeks summoning all the best parts of his game.

He has been a disruptive force on defense, as usual, but at a time when the Warriors needed something extra at both ends of the court, he is providing an abundance of offensive electricity.

Iguodala came through once more on Sunday as the Warriors suffocated Memphis in the fourth quarter to take a 106-94 win at Oracle Arena. Though the team’s Sixth Man again scored at an efficient clip -- 20 points on eight shot attempts -- his ability to energize teammates from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green to Klay Thompson and beyond is no less significant.

“We feed off his energy when we see him get a rebound or get a steal, push up the court, make a crazy inside-out dribble and finish at the rim, knock down threes or play-make for other guys,” Curry said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Iguodala’s rise has coincided with the loss of Kevin Durant, the team’s leading scorer and someone who plays the same position. With Durant out, Iguodala has taken on additional playing time, which can be risky for someone in his 13th season.

“He’s been fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looks incredibly athletic, bouncy and fresh. He’s a pro. The guy just knows how to take care of his body. He’s done a great job of stepping up in KD’s absence and recognizing what we need from him.”

The Warriors have played 13 games since Durant went down with a knee injury, and Iguodala has played in 11 of them, shooting 44 percent from deep and 61.8 percent overall. The man who shot 62.3 percent from the line in his first three seasons as a Warrior is at 70.1 percent this season. Leadership also is part of the package.

“I try to read (what’s needed) when I get into the game,” Iguodala said. “Try to bring that energy. And, more than anything, lead by example. Not say too much. Just show it.”

When Iguodala is sprinting up and down the court, rising and dunking on one end, stripping balls away on the other, the Warriors are appreciably better team. If the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson foursome is the engine, Iguodala is the turbo boost.

“We’re a completely different team when he’s as aggressive as he’s been of late,” Green said. “When he’s moving the way he’s been moving -- he’s beating everybody down the floor -- it makes us a completely different team. “

Igoudala’s minutes have spiked, from 23 per game in November, to 26 in December, to 27 in January and February, to almost 29 in March.

“I don’t want to run his minutes up too much,” Kerr said. “But if he has to play a couple extra minutes while KD is out, then that’s fine.”

It’s fine with Iguodala and it’s paying off for the Warriors.

Iguodala hopes it pays off, literally, when he becomes a free agent in July.

Though free agents entering their 14th season don’t often command big money, he is making a very impressive audition for the Warriors or any team that might be interested in his services.

Iguodala has made it clear he’d prefer to stay in the Bay Area, and at this rate the Warriors may have to find the necessary coins to bring him back.

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon. 

Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.

From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.

“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”

Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.

“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”

So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.

“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.

Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.

“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”

With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.

Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection. 

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”

Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.

With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back.