Kings fall to Thunder despite fourth quarter surge

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Kings fall to Thunder despite fourth quarter surge

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There was no coasting to a 10-game winning streak for Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Up by 24 in the fourth quarter, it looked as if Durant and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook were going to rest for most of the final period.

The Sacramento Kings had another idea, forcing Oklahoma City to make one more push.

Durant scored 31 points, Serge Ibaka added 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Thunder's starters had to make a late appearance to hold off the Kings for a 113-103 victory on Friday night.

It's the franchise's longest winning streak since November 1996, when it won 11 in a row as the Seattle SuperSonics.

"It's good. We're 19-4 and we just want to look at the bigger picture instead of winning streaks," said sixth man Kevin Martin, who had 18 points. "We're a pretty talented team, so we're just taking baby steps and getting better every day."

Sacramento closed to 103-98 thanks to Isaiah Thomas, who scored all 26 of his points in the final 13 1/2 minutes. He had four 3-pointers, a layup and a jumper during a 23-4 comeback attempt by the Kings.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks had already emptied his bench, but ended up calling timeout with 4:17 remaining to put his starters back in.

"It was just a little frustration that they came back because I thought we were playing so well," Durant said. "You have tough stretches like that. I was just more frustrated that we gave up the lead."

Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka got the call to come back after Sacramento had cut the deficit to 10. Durant missed his first shot and Westbrook didn't even catch the rim on his first attempt, with Thomas running right through the defense for a layup in between.

Jimmer Fredette's three free throws with 3:21 left made it 103-98, but that's as close as it got. Fredette couldn't connect on a 3-pointer or a drive to the basket, and Thomas also missed a 3 as Oklahoma City regained its footing.

Durant recovered the ball after getting stripped and dropped in a layup before back-to-back Ibaka baskets extended the lead to 109-98.

"We made it tough, but Scottie has that luxury over there to call the big dogs back into the game," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought our guys played and competed."

Durant wrote "Newtown, CT" on both of his shoes as a reference to the deadly school shooting in Connecticut earlier in the day. The three-time NBA scoring champion said it hit him particularly hard because he has a goddaughter who just started kindergarten and cousins in the first and second grades.

A moment of silence was held during the pregame prayer.

"I've got family members that young. Just to see kids that really couldn't do nothing for themselves, couldn't protect themselves and for their lives to be taken away and for their parents to go through stuff like that, that's the least I could do," Durant said.

"I wish I could do more. But it hit me really hard. It's tough to see, especially kids that couldn't do anything for themselves. Words can't even describe it. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now."

Tyreke Evans had 21 points and Jason Thompson finished with 15 for Sacramento, which was outrebounded 43-29.

Westbrook had 13 points and 13 assists for Oklahoma City.

After falling behind by 20 late in the first half, the Kings scored the first seven points in the third quarter and a couple minutes later cut the deficit to 65-55 following back-to-back 3-pointers by Aaron Brooks and John Salmons.

The margin was 12 when Smart called a timeout to prevent DeMarcus Cousins from attempting to take the ball coast to coast, then ripped into his players. Whatever he said didn't seem to provide much inspiration. The Thunder restored their 20-point cushion on Martin's two free throws with 9:46 remaining.

"There was a little arguing here and there, but it happens on every team," Thomas said. "Through the toughest times, you've got to know that the guy next to you is going to be all you've got and we've got to learn that."

Martin's layup pushed the lead to 99-75 just after seldom-used reserve Reggie Jackson entered for Oklahoma City. DeAndre Liggins, who plays even less, came in shortly thereafter.

The starters weren't quite done yet, and Durant said part of the blame for the comeback should fall on them.

"I'd date that back to the stat of the third. The starters have got to do a better job of coming out with more energy the first 5 minutes. Then maybe that wouldn't have happened in the fourth," Durant said. "We gave them a little bit of confidence going into that fourth. We just have to be better, and I think we will."

Martin had bookend 3-pointers in a 22-4 surge that put Oklahoma City firmly in control in the second quarter. Ibaka and Durant both had two-handed dunks during the run, and Durant also converted a 3-pointer and two free throws.

The Kings went 2 for 9 and committed four turnovers during the stretch before Kendrick Perkins delivered a firm screen to get Martin open for his 3-pointer to make it 56-36 with 2:37 left in the first half.

Sacramento led for just 39 seconds in the game, following a three-point play by Evans late in the first quarter. Martin hit a pair of free throws two possessions later to start a string of seven straight Thunder points, and Oklahoma City didn't trail again.

NOTES: Reserve guard Marcus Thornton was not with Sacramento for a second straight game for personal reasons. ... The Kings are the only Western Conference team that hasn't beaten the Thunder in Oklahoma City. ... Center Daniel Orton and guard Jeremy Lamb were assigned to Oklahoma City's NBA Development League affiliate in Tulsa before the game.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on

Player-by-player breakdown of the DeMarcus Cousins trade

Player-by-player breakdown of the DeMarcus Cousins trade

SACRAMENTO -- The transactions came fast and furious over the last 48 hours for the Sacramento Kings and with the trade deadline still two days away, they might not be done. Gone are DeMarcus Cousins, Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes. Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway have joined the fray in a huge roster shakeup.

Dave Joerger learned last season in Memphis that your roster is never set in stone and he will have his hands full trying to put together a makeshift lineup when games resume Thursday night.

ADDITIONS

Buddy Hield

Sacramento tried to move up in the 2016 NBA Draft to get their hands on the flashy shooting guard out of Oklahoma. Hield will eventually move into the starting lineup, with Ben McLemore either shifting to the three or coming off the bench with the second unit.

The 23-year-old wing has plenty of upside and he’s under team control for the next four seasons. After averaging 25 points per game during his senior year with the Sooners, Hield has struggled a bit with the transition to the pro game.

Through 57 games, including 37 starts, the rookie is posting 8.6 points on 39.2 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range. In addition to the scoring, he’s also posted 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 20.4 minutes per contest.

Hield, along with a 2017 first round pick, is the centerpiece of the deal for Cousins. Defensively, he is a work in progress, but the Kings landed an intriguing player that is known as a hard worker off the court and a solid locker room guy.

Tyreke Evans

Kings fans know Evans well from his four-year stretch in Sacramento beginning in 2009. The former Rookie of the Year has struggled with injuries over his last two seasons, playing a total of 51 games combined and has been on a minutes restriction in New Orleans.

He is still an effective scorer, rebounder and assist man, averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes per game. And at just 27-years-old, there is a chance he can bounce back and become the multi-positional stat stuffer from a year or two ago.

Evans is in the final year of his deal. If he’s healthy enough to play, he can step in and help the Kings at the small forward position that has been gutted by injury and the string of transactions.

Langston Galloway

Galloway joined the Pelicans over the summer after two seasons with thee Knicks. The 25-year-old point guard likes to shoot it, averaging 8.6 points on 37.7 percent from long range in 20.4 minutes per game.

The early talk had the Kings buying Galloway’s contract out, but it appears he is part of the short-term plan. Barring another trade, he will play behind Darren Collison and Ty Lawson at the point guard position.

SUBTRACTIONS

DeMarcus Cousins

There is no question that Cousins’ 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game will be missed in Sacramento. He has been the major cog in the Kings system for the last seven seasons and Joerger has limited options at the power forward position.

Sacramento can go big with second-year 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who is coming into his own. Veteran Anthony Tolliver is also an option to step in and start as a stretch four next to center Kosta Koufos and rookie Skal Labissiere might get a look as well, depending on what the Kings record looks like in a weeks or two.

The 13th overall selection, Giorgios Papagiannis, is also available to play minutes, although his readiness to contribute this season has been a question mark.

Replacing Cousins as an upper echelon NBA star is impossible this season for Sacramento. It might be years before they stumble on a player this good and that’s if they are lucky.

Omri Casspi

Casspi was a key reserve last season for Sacramento, but lost his minutes early in this year to Barnes and Tolliver. Injuries also played a role in Casspi’s limited opportunity this year. He played in just 22 games for Sacramento this season.

If he’s given the opportunity in New Orleans, Casspi could be a really nice fit on the frontline with Cousins and All-Star Anthony Davis. He’s shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range this year after knocking down better than 40 percent from deep over the last two seasons.

Matt Barnes

Barnes became Joerger’s go to guy at both forward positions and his influence in the locker room was tremendous. A lightning rod for controversy, Barnes was posting 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 25.3 minutes per game.

Evans can step in and fill some of that role as a jack-of-all-trades wing, but he doesn’t have the size to play the power position. Garrett Temple will likely see increased action at the small forward as well once he returns from a torn hamstring.

CAP SITUATION 

The Kings saved money long-term with the deal. Cousins was due $18.1 million next season, not to mention the $219 million extension he was ready to sign. Casspi is a free agent this summer.  

Hield is on his rookie scale deal that pays him $3.7 million next season. Evans is an unrestricted free agent and Galloway will likely opt in to his $5.4 million contract for the 2017-18 season.

The deal frees up roughly $9 million in salary and cap space. In addition, the Kings used the stretch provision to extend Barnes’ $6.4 million salary next season, breaking it up into three-years at $2.13 million and clearing up another $4.2 million in room for the summer of 2017.