Kings start flat, can’t recover in Oklahoma City


Nov 9, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Ish Smith (8) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings win streak is over. A winnable game against a battered Oklahoma City Thunder squad was the second challenge on the Kings four-game road trip. Unfortunately, Sacramento started the game poorly, finding no rhythm against a strong defensive gameplan from OKC. As they’ve shown throughout this young season, the Kings didn’t throw in the towel. A third quarter run pulled them within striking distance, but execution down the stretch just wasn’t at the necessary level. Reggie Jackson helped the Thunder to a 101-93 victory.

KINGS CAN’T SOLVE THUNDER ZONE — Credit to Oklahoma City for a terrific strategy that befuddled the Kings all night. The Thunder used a 2-3 zone for much of the first half, daring the Kings to make shots from the outside. Sacramento couldn’t do it, and when they tried to dribble into the teeth of the OKC defense, the Thunder bigs were quick to shut it down. The Kings had no answer and found no offensive rhythm, finishing the game 6-for-24 from three-point land. The Thunder took a 13-point lead into the halftime break.

SACRAMENTO RALLIES TO MAKE IT A GAME — The Kings deficit reached 17 before Sacramento decided to turn it on. Against a Thunder team missing two primetime scorers, the chance to comeback was there, and Sacramento seized it. DeMarcus Cousins (34 MIN, 16 PTS, 7-15 FG, 7 REB, 1 AST, 4 STL, 2 BLK, 2 TO) started the run with some determined low-post takes, and the Kings were quick to push the ball to avoid the zone. Sacramento pulled to within two points by the end of three quarters.

BENCH DOOMS KINGS — The Kings reserves were off their game, and inexplicably, Coach Michael Malone stuck with them even as the game slipped away. Ramon Sessions (13 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-4 FG, 3 AST, 1 TO, -10 +/-) was a sieve defensively, and he once again failed to get the Kings into any kind of offensive set. OKC pushed its advantage back up to nine with Kings reserves on the floor. The starters returned and didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to win, but the bench stint didn’t do them any favors. At some point, Ray McCallum has got to get some consideration for more minutes. Right?

OTHER OBSERVATIONS — The Kings dug their own grave, but the refs made some poor calls, specifically in the fourth. Namely, a Rudy Gay intentional foul of Steven Adams at 2:01 wasn’t credited until 1:58, resulting in a free point for OKC. A missed push-off by Jackson and a weak baseline foul on Cousins followed. These all came after a chintzy technical on Gay (38 MIN, 23 PTS, 9-19 FG, 1-6 3FG, 10 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL) for taunting after a vicious dunk … Ben McLemore (28 MIN, 16 PTS, 6-9 FG, 4-6 3FG, 2 REB, 2 AST) played a stellar all-around game, and he really stepped up late with some clutch shots. He was more than just a spot shooter; he created his own looks and made contested perimeter shots at critical points in the game … Darren Collison (35 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-15 FG, 5 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO) had no luck knocking down his own shot in the first half. He finished a brutal 1-of-6 from downtown … Reggie Evans also picked up a technical, while seated on the Kings bench. Presumably, it was for yelling something at Kendrick Perkins, who had just committed a turnover … The Kings, who have lived at the line this season, got to the charity stripe just 22 times (making 15, 68.2 percent).