Inspiring Isaiah’s Best Effort Not Enough Against Thunder


Dec 3, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) dives for the loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Sacramento Kings 97-95. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After the Warriors game, there was a growing frustration among Kings fans with the thought being…OK, enough of the moral victories, it’s time for the Sacramento Kings to actually win a close game. So then why does Tuesday’s losing effort to the Oklahoma City Thunder feel so satisfying? Playing without their man in the middle, the scrappy Kings left it all on the court. A big deficit was erased as a thunderous Sleep Train Arena crowd rallied behind a team playing at maximum effort level. Alas, the Kings final shot fell short and a 97-95 loss was the result. But without a doubt, the heart and hustle shown by the Kings made this one palatable.

Dec 3, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) scores a three point basket against Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson (15) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Sacramento Kings 97-95. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE KINGS — No Kings player epitomized the Kings 100% effort level more than Isaiah Thomas (21 MIN, 24 PTS, 9-18 FG, 3-8 3FG, 3 AST, 4 STL, 0 TO), who put together one of the most inspiring fourth quarters you’ll ever see. With his team down 17 points and yearning for any type of spark, the Kings energizer rose to the occasion. Thomas scored 21 points over the final 9:48, single-handedly outscoring OKC in the fourth (21-19). While his unbelievable shooting display was a thing of beauty, what really made you proud was his amazing desire. Slicing through the Thunder defense, leaping high to intercept passes, and his crowning play…knocking the ball loose from Russell Westbrook, diving on the loose ball amid multiple opponents and securing a timeout in the final minute. It was an absolute shame that his final attempt failed — a well-defended sequence that ended with a stepback 14-footer — but what a special gesture by Coach Michael Malone to bearhug his star after the final buzzer. Isaiah makes you proud to be a Kings fan.

RALLYING SANS COUSINS — With DeMarcus Cousins sitting the game out due to a sprained ankle, the Kings needed to rally together and play some great team ball. Aside from some defensive lapses in the second half, the results were positive. In the first half, the offense ran quite smoothly. With no go-to guy down low, the ball instead was worked around until a good shot was available. In the paint, the Kings big men worked hard. Chuck Hayes (18 MIN, 6 PTS, 3-3 FG, 9 REB, 2 STL) provided some solid minutes in place of Cousins, and Patrick Patterson (33 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-9 FG, 10 REB, 3 AST, 1 BLK) continued to flash terrific activity on the boards. Defensively, the Kings collectively did a solid job against OKC’s potent tandem. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 15-of-40 (37.5%), as Sacramento did the best it could in making things difficult for the Thunder.

KINGS WINGS DELIVER — Picking up the scoring slack left by Cousins’ absence were two starters, Derrick Williams and Ben McLemore, who propelled the Kings offense in the first half. Williams (27 MIN, 13 PTS, 5-10 FG, 1 STL) showed great skill off the dribble, which has been a knock on him. He was aggressive and looked for his own offense. McLemore (29 MIN, 14 PTS, 4-12 FG, 2-6 3FG, 4-5 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL) must have received some advice after he passed up an open look at the end of the Warriors game. Against the Thunder, the Kings rookie was shooting it nearly every time he got even a glimpse of the basket. Some shots were certainly rushed, but on the whole, you have to like the rookie getting aggressive. He knocked down some pretty shots from the perimeter and also looked to get to the hoop whenever given a lane. The Kings new athletic tandem will definitely be fun to watch going forward.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — In a game decided by two points, it was the clutch shooting of Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson that ultimately took down the Kings … Jason Thompson (34 MIN, 10 PTS, 4-10 FG, 10 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 2 TO) played a team-high 34 minutes, but his play of late has been less than spectacular. He’s out of rhythm on offense, and he had a crucial technical in the fourth quarter that gave OKC a free point … Needed Marcus Thornton (20 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-8 FG, 1-5 3FG, 5 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK) to knock down a few more shots. His effort was there, his decision-making was fine. He just missed open shots that had a huge impact in the game … After turning the ball over 24 times against Golden State, the Kings bounced back with just eight on Tuesday … Greivis Vasquez (27 MIN, 12 PTS, 4-10 FG, 2-2 3FG, 7 AST, 1 TO) scored seven points in the first 3:50 of the game. Meanwhile, the Thunder opened the game making just 1-of-11.