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Kings 94, Thunder 86: Sacramento overcomes a slow start for their first home win of the season

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The Sacramento Kings lowered their points per game average and still ended up finding a way to beat OKC’s Big 3, in the Kings second win of the season!

Kimani Okearah

Sacramento Kings starters:

George Hill, Garrett Temple, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein

Oklahoma City Thunder starters:

Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams

First Quarter

Another game, another terrible start for the Kings who spotted the Thunder an 8-0 to start the game and came out absolutely disinterested in playing defense; three of those four buckets came off of completely uncontested dunks, before Dave Joerger decided to call a timeout. Sacramento also started the game 0-11 from the field and at the 6:43 mark still hadn’t scored. Having enough, Dave Joerger finally decided to go to their bench to see if De’Aaron Fox or Justin Jackson could find the orange winny cylinder. 20 seconds later, Justin Jackson hit a corner three to put the first points up of the game for Sacramento. This game started sloppy with 7 turnovers and about 40 almost turnovers in the first six minutes of the game. All you need to know about this first quarter was that NBC put up a graphic that showed Justin Jackson was shooting 2/4, and the rest of the team was 0/15. Buddy Hield finally broke Jackson’s MVP bid with a three pointer at 2:38 left in the first and the score at the end of the first was 25-10, with the Kings shooting 16% from the field.

First Quarter Tidbits

-Willie got a haircut and it somehow made him slower. Steven Adams beat him down the floor two of the first three possessions of the game for easy layups.

-Steven Adams had 10 of the first 14 points for the Thunder; he averages 12 a game.

-Westbrook Triple Double Watch After One: 4 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists.

Second Quarter

Buddy Hield came out of the gate hitting back to back threes to get the Kings within 11, and had 11 points in his first five minutes coming off the bench for Sacramento. The entire team came out with a renewed sense of energy and put up 8 points in the first 90 seconds before Thunder coach Billy Donovan grabbed himself a timeout to remind his team that they were, in fact, still playing the Kings. Two minutes into the second and a De’Aaron Fox drive led to a Justin Jackson three pointer, and suddenly the Kings had cut the lead to 27-21, then a De’Aaron Fox stop and pop got the Kings within four. The Kings followed up the next three possessions all with turnovers and while they ended up at half time tied with the Thunder with 10 turnovers a piece, the energy and effort went way, way up, so, I’ll forgive it. Halfway through the quarter, the Kings found themselves down 3 on a Justin Jackson fastbreak layup, forcing Donovan to spend yet another time out. At 4:08 left in the first half, Willie Cauley-Stein hit two free throws to give the Kings their first lead of the game at 31-30. Willie actually went on a mini-run all by himself; scoring said free throws, then hitting an And-1 layup, then leading a fast break Magic Cousins style to find Garrett Temple for a 3 to give the Kings a 2 point edge. Somehow, some way the Kings clawed their way back into the game and went into halftime up 42-41, with their shooting up to 38% from the field (thanks to 12/17 shooting in the 2nd) and 7/16 from beyond the arc.

Second Quarter/ Halftime Tidbits

-I’ve been pretty down on Buddy to start the season, but his energy (and hot shooting) was absolutely the reason why the Kings got back into it. Props to Buddy Love who ended up at half time with 15 points on 6/7 shooting.

-Kings went on a 25-9 run between the end of the first and beginning of the second to somehow claw their way back in the game and the bench was 100% to thank for it.

-OKC started this quarter 2/10 and ended up scoring only 16 points in the second, exactly half of what the Kings put up.

-If you had 4:08 left in the second quarter before a Kings starter scored, you win the office pool, and are also promptly fired. Please pick up your last check on Friday, demon prophet.

-If his smooth game play wasn’t enough, Bogdanovic had two blocks in the first half of this game.

-Westbrook QUADRUPLE Double Watch: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 Turnovers

Third Quarter

The Kings started the third with a quick Z-Bo layup and on the ensuing possession forced the Thunder into a 24 second shot clock violation. Speaking of Z-Bo, he was tasked with guarding Melo to start the third, who immediate got himself two quick threes, but was paced by Randolph who also got himself twelve points in the quarter. I’ve been a huge detractor of Zach Randolph’s fit with the Kings, but the third quarter was his, and while he overshot a bit, I couldn’t complain about the results. The first 6 minutes of second half saw both teams kick the sloppy disjointed basketball up to another level; the Kings picked up their 4th team foul at 7:52 in the quarter and added five more turnovers to the total by the time Dave Joerger took a timeout at 6:44 left in the third. The Kings found themselves with their biggest lead of the game at 59-51 at 4:07 after Bogi went 1-2 on a pair of flagrant free throws followed by a Z-Bo slow-mo layup through traffic. OKC broke a 4 minute streak of not scoring at 2:40 with a Westbrook layup but the Kings answered with a Garrett Temple three pointer, making the score 63-55, Luka Doncic move 3 inches further from Vlade Divac’s grasp, and Billy Donovan that much closer to his timeout limit. De’Aaron Fox’s booster layup gave the Kings a 10 point lead with a little over 90 seconds to play in the quarter, and just 30 seconds later Fox hit a free throw line jumper to stretch the lead to 12 and Billy Donovan called yet another timeout. At the end of three, the Kings found themselves up 67-57, having outscored the Thunder 25-16 in the quarter.

Third Quarter Tidbits

-Bogdanovic had a really nice three pointer that rolled in over the hands of Adams to beat the shot clock half way through the quarter. The kid is a rookie in name only.

-Russell Westbrook was a toddler in roller skates tonight. He was on the floor at least 4 times that I can remember just in the third quarter alone. Twice the refs called a foul, a third was a turnover, and the fourth they called him for a flagrant-1 foul for shoving Bogi in the face on the way down of a flop jumper.

-After De’Aaron Fox turned the ball over with 1.4 seconds left in the 3rd, Skal Labissiere was dinged with a technical after responding to Carmelo Anthony shoving him. It really should have been a double-T, or nothing at all, but good on Skal for standing his ground.

-Russell Westbrook: 13 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 turnovers

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter opened with the basketball bouncing between the hands of Kings and Thunder players like a pinball. Turnovers, constant bobbling of the ball; for as close a game as it was, it was more frustration than excitement at times. Dave Joerger was forced to call a time out at 8:43 left in the game after the Thunder opened with a 9-4 stint including an OKC rebound off of a missed Westbrook And-1 free throw, cutting the lead to 5 points. Vince Carter was added in after the timeout, and immediately hit a three, but after trading buckets for Kings turnovers, the Thunder found themselves only down 1 with 5:10 left in the game. The ensuing possession, De’Aaron Fox played some great defense on a Carmelo Anthony face up, stripped him and ended up scoring a high flying layup on the other end to give the Kings a short-lived 3 point cushion. A technical free throw and ensuing three by Buddy, a Z-Bo midrange jumper and two free throws later, the Kings found themselves up 7 with 2:30 to go. Jerian Grant’s goaltend on a Justin Jackson layup gave the Kings an 87-80 advantage, but was followed up immediately by a Melo three pointer with 90 seconds to go. Billy Donovan called his 93rd timeout of the game with 41 seconds to go in the game with his team down 89-83, however, Paul George clanked a three pointer right off the inbound. The free throw game was expected to be played, but Zach Randolph had other plans and decided to dribble into a trap and a turnover, and an ensuing panic situation found Russell Westbrook knocking down a three with 16.4 seconds to go to cut the game to just 3 points. George Hill was the free throw shooter of choice off the inbound, and hit his first point of the game at 14 seconds to go, going 1 of 2 from the line and putting the game away permanently for the Kings. Melo misses a three, Buddy grabs the rebound and gets fouled, two more points the Kings way. One more turnover, Justin Jackson gets a dunk, and the Kings break their 7 game losing streak to the OKC Thunder!

Fourth Quarter/Second Half Tidbits

Russell Westbrook hit Kosta Koufos with an elbow that looked a lot like it was intentional. Koufos ended up having to go back to the locker room to get checked. He didn’t need stitches but didn’t ever come back into the game either... yikes.

De’Aaron Fox had himself a solid games with 10 points and 8 assists on 5/10 shooting, but definitely looked like a rookie point guard at times with 5 turnovers for the young guard.

After 15 points in the first half, Buddy Hield didn’t score in second half until a technical free throw at 4:05 left in the game; he ended up with 21 points.

Russell Westbrook Final Tally: 20 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers

Oklahoma City has not yet won against a Western Conference team.

Three Takeaways

  1. The Kings young guards and wings can all play. Buddy had himself a great first half, but the unsung Hero of the Night was Justin Jackson who played a great game with 16 points, 4 rebounds. He was key in righting the ship after the Kings disastrous start to the first. He, Fox, Bogdan all had fantastic nights in one way or another and its great to see them all contributing in meaningful ways.
  2. The Thunder average 15.1 Fast break points a game, good for 3rd in the NBA. Tonight, the Kings held them to just 8 points. It was a sloppy game on both sides tonight, but to hold a team with Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to a sub-90 point final score; fantastic.
  3. The first quarter shot chart was Abnormal, Suspect, Sucky, but the Kings ended up shooting a respectable 46.2% for the game against the second best defense in the NBA this season. Here’s to this game being the confidence booster that was needed!

Performance Review

I could whine about 23 turnovers, but the Kings had 3 more blocks, 5 more assists and 3 more rebounds than a team that most expected would be a Top-4 team in the Western Conference this years. Buddy is busting out of his slump, De’Aaron Fox continues to impress and most importantly the Kings got the win!

Grade: A-