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Thunder vs Kings, final score: Oklahoma City earns tough win over Sacramento, 104-92

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The Thunder used a big 1st quarter and late game defense and timely scoring from Westbrook and Durant to hold off the Kings.

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Clown > Virus
W. Bennett Berry

Box Score | Sactown Royalty

The Oklahoma City Thunder won their 7th game in a row and 9 out of their last 10 by defeating the Sacramento Kings on the road, 104-92. In a game that was marked by plenty of drama off the court leading in, credit goes to both teams for being able to maintain focus and play a competitive and physical game throughout.

The Thunder jumped out to a big 14 point lead at the end of the 1st quarter, but the Kings showed tremendous resiliency despite missing their key player DeMarcus Cousins. When it seemed like OKC was going to run away with the game, the Kings ended the 1st half with a 9-2 run to cut their deficit to 7.

The Thunder were able to push the lead back to double digits in the 3rd, despite their offense showing signs of being affected by the Kings' physical play. However, the Thunder defense rose to the challenge as well, holding the Kings to only 17 points in the 3rd.

In the 4th quarter, things got tense with Russell Westbrook sitting with 4 fouls and Kevin Durant still dealing with some minute restrictions (though he recorded 35 tonight, a season-high). The Kings made a strong push to start the 4th, actually taking the lead 4 minutes in at 84-83. However, once Westbrook and Durant returned, things were quickly corrected. Behind the firepower of Westbrook and Durant, OKC closed the game on a 21-8 run and put the game out of reach.

The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook, who continued his torrid pace in recording 32 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals against only a single turnover. Durant finished with 26 points, although he is still showing signs of struggle with shooting consistency. The Kings were led by Rudy Gay's 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.

The Thunder record is now 12-13, one game under .500. With a win on Thursday against the Warriors, OKC can put into a dead heat for the 8th seed.

What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

Many believed that without Cousins playing and with the coaching turmoil behind the scenes, the Kings would be out of sorts and roll over. We were pleasantly treated to the exact opposite, as the Kings showed a great deal of heart and determination to repeatedly recover from double-digit deficits to actually take the lead in the 4th quarter. Sometimes adversity can galvanize a team, and I think that is what we saw tonight.

However, also as predicted, in the end the Thunder's top-end talent is too much to handle. Westbrook is a one-man wrecking crew, and the combination of Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, and Ramon Sessions did barely anything to slow him down. It is fascinating watching Westbrook slowly harness his talents before our very eyes. His maturation on the court is remarkable, and when the game was on the line he returned to the court and made winning play after winning play. Upon returning, Westbrook practically took apart the Kings' chances himself, scoring 10 of those 32 points in the final 7 minutes and gathered 2 steals amidst constant pressure on the Sacramento backcourt.

What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?

The Thunder rode a big 1st quarter to a lead that they held for most of the game, which was critical because the Kings were playing playoff-intensity basketball. Despite that early deficit, Sacramento made the Thunder work for their points in the 2nd half. A combination of Kings' defense, Thunder sloppiness on offense, and a letdown with their bench unit nearly led to a disappointing ending. The bench in particular got heavily outplayed in the 2nd half, surrendering a double-digit lead and for the game getting outplayed by their counterparts by a score of 44-28.

Fortunately, OKC is not a finesse team and they pushed back hard. Scott Brooks elected to stay with Steven Adams for the majority of the 4th quarter, and Adams' physical presence in the lane played a big part in preventing Collison and Gay from getting to the rim for easy shots. Adams finished with 10 rebounds on the night, 4 of which were offensive, demonstrating his resolve off the glass on both ends of the court.

In the end, it was the timeliness of Westbrook's return, combined with staunch defense, that allowed OKC to close the game well, sign off on a hard-fought game, and look forward to a chance to get back to .500 on Thursday.

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Sherman's Awards

Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 32 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover

Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, 26 points, 3 rebounds

Thunder Blunder: Thunder bench for losing a double digit lead

Thunder Plunderer: Rudy Gay

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Next game: @ Golden State Warriors on Thursday, 12/18 at 9:30PM CDT