The Sacramento Kings are still without DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison (well, and Eric Moreland), so expectations are about as low as they've been all season. They mustered up enough effort to meet those expectations tonight, against playoff hopeful Oklahoma City Thunder, but were obviously outclassed to a final score of 116-103.
The Kings were led in scoring by Ben McLemore, who was able to score 20 points on 17 shots. Ben was 4/10 from three point range, which is a solid percentage. Its notable that Ben was nearly automatic when his feet were set, but ran into issue when he had to shoot on the move. One of McLemore's priorities this season should be to work on his footwork so that when he's shooting the three off of a curl or on the move, he gets better balance towards the basket. Ben, however, also had several misadventures handling the ball as his five turnovers can attest to; he'll probably never be a quality pick and roll player, but was forced into that role tonight because of injuries. Overall, another game where McLemore flashed his potential to be a dynamic SG in this league.
McLemore also got help from fellow youngsters Ray McCallum and Derrick Williams, who scored 17 points each. The key for Ray's game is always his shooting, and he was excellent tonight, both in that midrange pop and his three point shot. He also got into Westbrook's jersey all game, making life as tough as you can for the superstar guard. Williams was ice cold shooting the ball from the field, but was able to make a big impact on the game just by attacking the rim repeatedly, getting to the line, and (gasp) rebounding the ball. He wasn't without his usual D-Will brainfarts though, which does dampen the performance somewhat.
The Kings were still within striking distance in the fourth quarter. But Westbrook took over the game down the stretch, abusing McCallum in the post on two consecutive plays, and then hitting Enes Kanter two perfect passes consecutively when he was doubled. From there, an eight point lead ballooned into an 16 point lead, and the game was over at that point. The win keeps Oklahoma City's playoff hopes alive, but they still need the New Orleans Pelicans to lose at least one game. The Kings, meanwhile, move on to play the Denver Nuggets in a game that is big for lottery seeding.
- Jason Thompson fought a one-man war against the Thunder in the paint and put up an admirable fight. He played superb defense, blocking three shots, and completely cleaned the glass with 14 rebounds. Unfortunately he didn't add enough offensively going the other way and was a bit overaggressive on the offensive end with little results. Still, this performance should be lauded.
- Williams can be unbelievably frustrating, because he statistically had a solid game tonight despite shooting poorly from the perimeter, but it could have been so much better if he was smarter with his drives. He tries to go left-handed only to get stuffed in the paint when he should be going right, goes right when he should be going left, shooting a wing three when he should be passing to McCallum for an open corner three. And then he runs a perfect fast break, finding McLemore for an alley-oop on a secondary break... just mentally he just hasn't been a consistent decisionmaker.
- Carl Landry got the start and competed on the glass, which was a welcome sight. Unfortunately, his lack of explosiveness became sadly apparent when he tried to finish against OKC's length. Just does not have the lift anymore.
- Nice bounceback game for Andre Miller, who has really regressed in the past few weeks. While his court vision still writes checks his deteriorating body can't cash, he still knows George Karl's system better than anyone else, and is valuable for that reason alone.
- Omri Casspi continued his strong stretch of play with 15 points, including 2/4 from long range. HIs shooting has been a marvelous revelation; he's shooting a scorching 47% from three point range ever since George Karl took over.
- Perry Jones suffered a gruesome knee injury at the end of the game. Lets hope that he bounces back from this, the Thunder can hardly afford any more injury setbacks.