The Sacramento Kings were out-muscled, out-worked, and out-benched against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, falling 132 to 113 at the Golden One Center. De’Aaron Fox led the Kings (16-15) with 28 points and 12 assists, while Buddy Hield finished with a career high 37 points and 6 rebounds on 7 of 14 from three. Sacramento’s guard duo finished with 65 points, while the rest of the squad managed only 48.
The Thunder (20-10) remain the 3rd seed in the Western Conference after the victory, and were led by a triple-double from Mr. Triple Double Russell Westbrook (19 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds) and 20 points and 23 rebounds from Steven Adams.
Rebounds and bench depth—or lack thereof—cost the Kings the contest. Adams’ and the Thunder crushed the glass, finishing with a 66 to 43 advantage. Sacramento’s reserve core managed just 15 points, and desperately missed Bogdan Bogdanovic (sore foot) and Marvin Bagley III (knee). A fairly even first-quarter contest tilted quickly in the Thunders’ favor as soon as the second units entered. The Kings had to go so deep that Ben McLemore and Skal Labissiere played significant bench minutes, and at one point, Dave Joerger had to resort to a Yogi Ferrell/McLemore/Troy Williams/Nemanja Bjelica/Kosta Koufos lineup.
De’Aaron Fox almost single-handedly dragged the Kings back into contention in the third quarter—he had 13 points and 5 assists in the period, and snagged a highlight block on a would-have-been-open three from Hamidou Diallo. But that third quarter run ended when Fox got a rest and—surprise surprise—the reserves were nuked with little return firepower.
Willie Cauley-Stein (13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) was abysmal against Adams, abysmal on the glass, and shot an abysmal number of mid-range jumpers in the half-court. Adams simply outworked Cauley-Stein for multiple offensive rebounds off of Thunder free throws. This game was the biggest evidence yet that Cauley-Stein is not a long-term starter for this team. He unlocks so much for Fox in the Kings hyper-pace offense—the two partnered up for some great pick-and-rolls early—but he’s a massive liability on the glass and defense.
The Kings will face Memphis (Friday) and New Orleans (Sunday) to finish off this three-game homestand. For the rival perspective, visit Welcome to Loud City.