And the limp to the finish line continues. With Oklahoma City still trying to lock down the Western Conference No. 1 seed, the Sacramento Kings had to face the full Thunder roster. That spelled trouble right from the jump. It was another game that became hard to analyze — the Thunder were in full control at all times, and Keith Smart again gave the reserves extended run. The result — a 104-95 victory for OKC — ensures the Kings will not hit the 30-win mark for the fifth straight season.
TYREKE, OVER AND OUT – Tyreke Evans was having a strong first quarter, keeping the Kings alive amid a Thunder downpour of offense. Unfortunately, his night, and likely his season, came to an abrupt end. Evans (10 MIN, 8 PTS, 4-5 FG, 1 AST, 1 STL) slipped on a wet spot on the floor after converting a lay-up. The fall torqued his left leg, and Evans was unable to leave the floor on his own power. The diagnosis was a quad strain, and Keith Smart said he has no plans to let Evans take the floor Wednesday against the Clippers. While Evans will be a restricted free agent this offseason, it is anybody’s guess as to what direction a new ownership group will want to go with the roster. As such, the possiblity exists that this was Evans’ last game with the Kings. It shouldn’t be. Evans has earned an extension this season, as he has expanded his offensive game, learned to play off the ball and become one of the best defensive guards in the conference.
ALDRICH AGAIN – Every season, it seems the Kings bring in a fringe bench player late in the season and he flashes some legitimate skills. Last year, it was swingman Terrence Williams; a few years, Ike Diogu made a late splash. This year, the title is going to Cole Aldrich, though Toney Douglas could be considered in the same boat. Aldrich (23 MIN, 12 PTS, 6-6 FG, 13 REB) posted his second consecutive double-double against Oklahoma City. Labeling Aldrich an athlete is a stretch — he’s slow on his feet and far from graceful. But there is something to be said for a guy who knows his role. Against OKC, Aldrich just played within himself. He gobbled up rebounds, played large in the paint on defense and cleaned up the garbage around the rim. Aldrich may not return — the Kings have a full roster of guaranteed contracts — but it never hurts to have a seven-footer in your back pocket. And Aldrich has proven he can contribute positively.
FEISTY ISAIAH – As noted after Sunday’s game against Houston, you can just tell the constant losing is getting to Isaiah Thomas. Thomas (28 MIN, 16 PTS, 5-10 FG, 4-8 3FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 5 TO) is a true competitor, and it pains him to see others playing without the passion he brings. The Kings point guard tried to motivate his teammates by playing with extra fire against the Thunder. Sensing the game slipping away in the third quarter, Thomas stepped up the effort and tried to carry the team’s offense. He may have tried to do too much, but it’s hard to fault the guy. Thomas even got into a dust-up with Russell Westbrook, prompting double technicals for the guards. It was good to see Smart stick with Thomas longer than the other starters in the second half. Isaiah wanted to win, and you have to respect anyone playing with that intensity at this point in the season.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t a happy camper. He narrowly avoided technicals on multiple occasions, clearly frustrated with a perceived lack of whistles. DMC (25 MIN, 7 PTS, 2-9 FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 5 TO) was totally ineffective … Travis Outlaw was the Kings go-to guy in the second half (which speaks to the dire situation). Surprisingly, Outlaw (24 MIN, 15 PTS, 6-11 FG, 3 AST, 2 REB, 1 STL) wasn’t half bad … The Kings hit just 12-of-21 from the free throw line.