Kings fall to Thunder despite fourth quarter surge

westbrook_russell_kings_thunder.jpg

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.

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

SACRAMENTO -- Managing expectations. The Sacramento Kings are neither the team that blasted the Denver Nuggets by a final of 116-100 on Thursday night, nor the group that was flattened 99-85 on Saturday afternoon by the Charlotte Hornets. They are likely somewhere in between.

As Dave Joerger searched for combinations that work together, the Kings struggled with massive bouts of inconsistency Saturday. They are a team of veteran role players and young talent, none of which have ever been a focal point of an NBA offense in their careers.

It’s a work in progress for all involved. Sacramento has 23 games remaining on the schedule and it will take plenty of those games to once again balance out the lineups.

“It’s tough right now, trying to acclimate everyone in and trying to move forward,” point guard Darren Collison said.

Willie Cauley-Stein had a breakout 29-point, 10-rebound game against Denver just two days ago, but things change when a team has time to gameplan. The second-year big scored just two points and grabbed two rebounds in 28 minutes of action against Charlotte as they clogged the middle and took away the pick-and-roll.

“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks,” Cauley-Stein said. “They’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line. But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”

On top of the lack of scoring and rebounding, both Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos struggled to stay with mobile big man Frank Kaminsky on the perimeter. The 23-year-old center doubled his season average, finishing the night with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Kaminsky knocked in 5-of-9 from long range as the Kings’ big chose to take away All-Star Kemba Walker and sagged off the University of Wisconsin product. The rotations were slow, which is to be expected from a team that is just starting to come together.

“Tonight was a situation where you had a team that is a veteran team, a very physical team,” Joerger said in his postgame comments. “They pushed us around the court most of the night with their size and their experience at all positions.”

There were still some positives to take away from the lopsided loss. Skal Labissiere is finding a way to produce since making his way into the rotation. The 20-year-old rookie played 23 minutes off Joerger’s bench, scoring eight points on 4-of-10 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of potential,” Anthony Tolliver said. “For him, I just tell him every day, ‘just go out there and play hard, man, everything else will take care of itself.’ As he starts to get more comfortable, that’s when he’s going to start to make a big impact.”

Taken with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere has played very sparingly over the first two-thirds of the season, but with very little depth at the power position, he has received an opportunity and taken advantage of it. His length and athleticism were on full display against the Hornets.

Rookie Buddy Hield added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but 13 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of hand. He struggled to find a rhythm early, like most of the Kings perimeter players.  

Ben McLemore chipped in 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Like Hield all but two of those points came after the intermission and after the Kings had already fallen behind by double-digits.

Tyreke Evans started in his second game back with the Kings, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. The veteran wing played well defensively, but he’s still searching for his place with this team.

Sacramento gets a shot to redeem themselves on Monday when the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves drop by Golden 1 Center. With the loss they fell a game and half behind the Nuggets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- It’s going to be a process. After a big win on Thursday night over the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team that had just completely revamped its roster on the fly. The result was a disappointing 99-85 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento left big man Frank Kaminsky open all night and he torched them from the perimeter. The second-year center scored 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point land while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out three assists.

Nic Batum couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field on the night. He stall managed to impact the game in a positive way for Charlotte, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.

Marvin Williams chipped in 16 points and six rebounds. All-Star Kemba Walker scored just 12 points and dished out six assists and Marco Belinelli added 13 points and six rebounds in the win.

Rookie Skal Labissiere put up solid numbers for the second straight game. After bouncing back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns all season long, the athletic big dropped in eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Ben McLemore rallied late to score 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

Buddy Hield went for 15, although most of his points came when the game was out of hand. Darren Collison added 10 points and five assists

Anthony Tolliver was one of the few players to find their range as the Kings fell behind early. The veteran knocked down 3-for-6 from long range on his way to 11 points.

Tyreke Evans turned back the clock and showed flashes of the player that averaged 20-5-5 as a rookie. The 27-year-old wing dropped in 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes starting at the small forward spot for Sacramento.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Kaminsky lit the Kings up. More of a stretch four than a true center, the second-year big looked very comfortable all night long.

TURNING POINT:
Charlotte finished the first half strong to take an 11 point lead into the break. Coming out of the intermission, the Hornets jumped all over the Kings, using a 12-0 run to start the third and push their lead to 23.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Afflalo continues to be listed as day-to-day with hamstring stiffness. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings are back in action Monday evening when Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves roll through Sacramento.