The Oklahoma City Thunder won their 3rd game in a row, defeating the Sacramento Kings at home 108-93. After a close affair through a half of play, the Thunder defense found its footing and held the Kings to only 41 points in the 2nd half. Using a big 3rd quarter run, the Thunder overwhelmed the Kings and much of the 4th quarter was mere formality.
The Thunder were led by Kevin Durant, who finished with 30 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Durant was joined by Serge Ibaka, who finished with his 3rd consecutive 20+ point game, finishing with 20 points and 6 rebounds. Nick Collison led a strong bench effort, finishing with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
The Kings were led by Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 38 points and 6 assists.
|Final - 1.19.2014
|Oklahoma City Thunder
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
This was a strong win for the Thunder because of how business-like it felt. From the outset, it was clear that the Kings felt like their best chance to win was to take the fight through their diminutive PG Thomas and attack the Thunder at the point position. It wasn't a bad strategy, as the Thunder had a really hard time containing Thomas on both the drive and the outside shot, and after a quarter the Kings led.
However, there was little reason to be concerned because it became clear that the Thunder used this opening quarter to gauge the Kings' method and then OKC counterpunched. On the back of Durant, they worked their way into a lead and the defense began to re-direct Thomas into zones where he was not as effective. With the defense finding its footing, after that 30 point 1st quarter they only permitted 22-22-19 the rest of the way.
Durant in particular continued his deadly ways, even though he (snark) scored 24 fewer points than he did the last time out. It is difficult to describe the way Durant is playing now, because he is in so great a control not only over his own game but his entire team's attack. He knows when to drive, when to pull up, and when to throw the pass. He is fully balanced within the rhythm of the game. The opposing team has little chance to slow him down.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The Thunder did a great job biding their time and taking the Kings' big early punch. Smart, disciplined teams know that 4 quarters are plenty of time for peaks and valleys, and it serves them well to take the other team's big run early on and then make adjustments.
This is what the Thunder did, and by the time the 3rd quarter was over, the 4th quarter was nearly a matter of running out the clock.
I write 'nearly' because in the last 6 minutes of the game, I wasn't too thrilled with the way the Thunder executed on offense. I don't want to kill Reggie Jackson for a strong performance, but he once again fell into a bit of an ISO mode where his teammates looked like they didn't really understand what he was trying to do. As such, they couldn't position themselves for open looks and more often than not Jackson had to force contested shots.
The sequence didn't hurt the Thunder, but you could tell Brooks wasn't too happy with it and he had to re-insert Durant in the final minutes to make sure OKC didn't suffer a collapse.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
It might seem like a small thing when Durant and Ibaka combined for 50 points on 19-28 shooting (which, by the way, was Durant's shooting line against the Warriors, and he still scored more points by himself), but the fact that the OKC shooters combined for 9-21 from 3-point range makes a huge difference in how dynamic their offense can be.
With slightly above average 3-point shooting, it opens all the driving lanes for Jackson and Durant to exploit. Great job by Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb, and Jackson to give their offense that kind of variability.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder survived a potential trap game against the Kings, one where Sacramento showed off some new resolve and talent collection, and earned a win on their way to facing the Trail Blazers once again.
Portland is up next, and this is a big game because they have already taken 2 games over OKC. The Thunder are now in a must-win scenario if they want to try and have even the possibility of splitting the season series against Portland. Given that the Blazers and Thunder are neck and neck in the standings, this could go a long ways toward deciding who finishes with the #1 seed.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 30 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
Thunder Blunder: Derek Fisher, 4 points on 2-9 shooting in 25 minutes
Thunder Plunderer: Isaiah Thomas, 38 points, 6 assists
Next game: vs Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7PM CST