Kings can’t keep up as Thunder dominate perimeter


Apr 8, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Caron Butler (2) attempts a shot over Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn’t a lot of excitement surrounding Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Sacramento Kings limping to the end of another losing season and the Thunder all but assured the No. 2 seed in the West, this one had little riding on it. Take away Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas and Russell Westbrook (who all sat this one out) and it became a battle of reserves. The Kings did just about what you’d expect — they were able to hang with OKC for a little over a half. But that’s about as far as it got. The Thunder opened the fourth quarter on a 16-0 run, putting away the Kings and helping OKC cruise to a 107-92 victory.

Apr 8, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson (15) dribbles the ball next to Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) in the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Thunder defeated the Kings 107-92. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

THUNDER CONTROL THE PERIMETER — On the plus side, the Kings held Kevin Durant to 23 points, marking the first time the Thunder star has been held under 25 points in the last 41 games. But even without Westbrook, Oklahoma City has perimeter firepower and they unleashed it on the Kings. Caron Butler was the MVP and really torched the Kings, going 6-for-6 from three-point range. The Thunder as a team hit 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) from long range while the Kings managed to hit just 3-of-14 from downtown. It’s hard to overcome that discrepancy against one of the league’s best.

RECOGNIZING TRAVIS OUTLAW — With Gay nursing a sore back, Travis Outlaw got the start and really deserves recognition for his strong performance. Outlaw (37 MIN, 24 PTS, 11-20 FG, 1-6 3FG, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 TO) was hot from the get-go, scoring nine of the Kings first 17 points. But merely recognizing the shooting of Outlaw doesn’t do his performance justice. Travis contributed across the board. He scored twice on putback tip-ins, made some crisp passes that led to baskets and put forth maximum effort toward slowing Kevin Durant on the defensive end. Outlaw has been a pleasant surprise, specifically in the season’s second half. You have to appreciate that the veteran is always ready to play, no matter how much his floor time fluctuates. There’s no reason he can’t be a steady option next year as maybe a second perimeter option off the bench.

COUSINS SHOULDERS THE LOAD — DeMarcus Cousins (35 MIN, 24 PTS, 10-24 FG, 4-6 FT, 14 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 3 TO) had his do-it-all mentality going, as the big man tried to fill the void left by his missing sidekicks. On the whole, it was a tough night for Cousins, as it usually is against the Thunder’s physical interior defenders. He was a little over aggressive at times, forcing it inside in search of whistles. Cousins managed to contribute, though, thanks to his hot hand from the perimeter. Boogie also provided an incredible, dominating minute in the third quarter. A ferocious block, a crafty reverse lay-up, a defensive rebound and a smooth 19-foot jumper brought the fans to their feet and the Kings within four points at the 6:35 mark of the third.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — Ben McLemore (39 MIN, 11 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1-4 3FG, 4-4 FT, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 TO) continues to work hard but his inability to convert offensively is frustrating. His night included a missed dunk, a missed lay-up and multiple missed open jumpers. He did get under the skin of Derek Fisher, which is sure to leave a favorable impression on Kings fans … McLemore’s rookie backcourt mate, Ray McCallum, also had an awful shooting night. McCallum (45 MIN, 7 PTS, 3-14 FG, 2 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO) was too predictable, using a high screen to dribble to the angle, only to kick back to the screener at the top of the key. When he did shoot, the results were rarely positive. Tough one for the rook … Jason Thompson (36 MIN, 11 PTS, 3-8 FG, 5-7 FT, 7 REB, 1 BLK) started for the absent Reggie Evans. JT surprisingly found the touch from the free throw line, but his touch around the basket was iffy … Willie Reed was called up from Reno for the game, but he didn’t arrive until the fourth quarter, joining his teammates on the bench during garbage time.