The Sacramento Kings always seem to play well…in spurts…against the NBA’s elite. On Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that spurt came in the game’s early moments. The Kings, propelled by an energetic crowd, shot out to a 23-9 lead. To nobody’s surprise, the joy was short lived. By the end of the first quarter, Kings miscues helped the Thunder cut the deficit to just three. And before you knew it, OKC had seized control with a 25-point lead in the third quarter. The Thunder took a 105-95 win, sending the Kings out on a six-game road trip with a three-game losing streak.
EARLY SUCCESS – For about eight minutes, it looked like we may be headed toward a repeat of last year’s stunning Kings win over OKC. Sacramento had the energy, thwarting the Thunder’s offense by making things difficult for Russell Westbrook. On offense, the Kings were moving the ball and getting close looks at the basket. Jason Thompson (33 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-11 FG, 5 REB, 3 TO) had seven points in the first six minutes, looking primed to emerge from his lengthy slump. Things turned quickly, as the insertion of Kevin Martin and sloppy late quarter execution stymied the Kings rally. And the Thunder never looked back.
OKC ERASES ISAIAH – When the Kings threatened the Thunder in Oklahoma City last month, it was Isaiah Thomas who led the comeback charge. Clearly, Westbrook had viewed that tape and made it his job to shut down Thomas this time around. Isaiah (22 MIN, 7 PTS, 2-5 FG, 1 AST, 1 TO) was a non-factor offensively. His struggles from the perimeter continued, as he has made just 1-of-17 from three-point range in the past seven games. Sacramento had Thomas guard Thabo Sefolosha in the early going, but he landed in foul trouble when he switched to Westbrook. The typically calm Thomas even picked up a technical after being sent to the bench with his 5th foul. With their floor general on ice, the Kings struggled to gain any rhythm offensively.
NOTHING EASY FOR DMC – DeMarcus Cousins was also rendered ineffective by the Thunder defense. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka kept Cousins on the perimeter and made any shot around the basket a tough chore. DMC (32 MIN, 14 PTS, 6-16 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 7 TO, 3 STL) was clearly frustrated. He also had zero success when trying to pass the ball, forcing the ball way too many times to well-defended areas. Things have not come easy for Cousins over the past two games — against Phoenix and OKC, Cousins posted 13 turnovers while shooting 38 percent.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Former King Kevin Martin enjoyed his return to Sac with 24 points off the Thunder bench … Marcus Thornton, the player the Kings essentially received for trading Martin, also played well. Thornton (25 MIN, 13 PTS, 4-8 FG, 3-5 3FG, 2 REB, 4 STL, 2 TO) found his outside shot and kept active hands on defense … Keith Smart went back to Jimmer Fredette instead of Aaron Brooks, but Fredette didn’t exactly reward his coach. Jimmer (18 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-8 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO) played a bad game, only hitting the score sheet with some garbage time triples. In the first half, Jimmer did do a good job of setting up his teammates; that could have been a point of emphasis to get him back on the floor over Brooks.