Kings

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.

Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings

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AP

Patience needed for young and inexperienced Kings

The Sacramento Kings are attempting to do something rarely seen in the NBA. They’ve paired four first round selections from the 2016 NBA Draft with another five rookies for the 2017-18 season. They’ll open the season with nine players with one year of NBA experience or less and three others with two years in the league or fewer if you include two-way contracts.

Veterans Vince Carter (40), Zach Randolph (36), George Hill (31), Garrett Temple (31) and Kosta Koufos (28) push the average age of the Kings to 26.1. According to RealGM, they’ll enter the 2017-18 season tied for the 15th youngest roster in the league.

If you remove the veterans, the Kings youthful core averages less than 22 years of age. But age doesn’t tell the entire story.

Entering his third NBA season, Willie Cauley-Stein has seen action in 141 of a possible 164 games. On the current roster, he might as well get lumped in with the veterans.

Buddy Hield donned a Kings uniform for 25 games last season after coming over in a midseason trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. He played 82 games in total between the two clubs, which is five more combined contests than his fellow 2016 draft mates Skal Labissiere (33 games), Georgios Papagiannis (22 games) and Malachi Richardson (22 games) played in.

Sacramento selected three first rounders in the 2017 NBA Draft, including De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. They also landed point guard Frank Mason III with an early second round pick and convinced 25-year-old former first rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic to leave the European game behind and join the club.

Without bringing two-way players Jack Cooley (16 games) and JaKarr Sampson (147 games) into the discussion, the Kings have a major experience issue. They’ll walk into the season with 10 players having a combined 300 games of NBA experience and 223 of those games were played by Cauley-Stein and Hield.  

Sacramento’s veteran group has appeared in 3718 regular season contests. Dave Joerger will have no choice but to turn to the group for plenty of minutes as the Kings’ young players learn on the fly.

Patience is necessary. Vlade Divac and his team have assembled a lot of talent, but they will need time to develop. Joerger has a strong staff in place, including Elston Turner, Bryan Gates, Duane Ticknor, Bob Thornton, Jason March and Larry Lewis. Phil Ricci was also added to the staff as a player development coach this season with the influx of young players.

Even with an expanded staff, there is no way Joerger can fit all 10 of his youngsters into the rotation. They’ll need playing time to develop and there is a good chance that some of these freshman and sophomore players will spend time with Darrick Martin and the Reno Bighorns.  

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

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AP

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Take all them motherf****** down'

Some professional athletes take a stand by kneeling on the sidelines or raising a fist into the air. Some write succinct tweets expressing their dismay with the current political climate in the United States of America. Others just get right to the point with a poignant off the cuff statement to a waiting camera.

Former Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins has certainly mastered the art of the cryptic tweet, but he’s also never been one to shy away from a direct question when asked. When an inquiry was thrown his direction about confederate statues in New Orleans and his home state of Alabama, Cousins was brief with his words, but very clear.

"Take all them mother****ers down," Cousins told TMZ while navigating a security line at the airport. "Take 'em all down.”

Cousins may not have chosen the most eloquent words, but his point of view is shared by plenty of others. He isn’t the first athlete to take a stand with regards to race in America over the last week as racial tensions have spilled out into the streets in Charlottesville, Virginia. Social media is filled with professional athletes adding their thoughts to the conversation.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant has made it clear that he will not visit the White House and President Donald Trump, a visit most teams make following an NBA championship.

"Nah, I won't do that," the 8-time All-Star told ESPN on Thursday. "I don't respect who's in office right now.”

"I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” Durant continued. “That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me."

Garrett Temple has used Twitter to make his thoughts known as well. Recently named the Kings’ Players Voice Teammate of the Year by the National Basketball Players Association, Temple has used his position as an NBA player to speak out multiple times.

Over the last week, he’s fielded questions and had plenty of discussions through social media on the issues of race and equality. His Twitter timeline is littered with thoughtful replies and some not so thoughtful ideas as well. Plenty of fans thanking him for using his position to further the conversation and of course, there is the occasional, “stick to sports” comment.

Agree or disagree, today’s athletes have huge platforms to share their opinions. From Cousins to Temple, there are varying degrees of engagement, but the time of players staying out of the discussion is long gone.