After a grueling stretch of playing four Western Conference playoff teams to start the month, the Oklahoma City Thunder had been in a funk coming into this game. Having lost 6 of the last 7 games and watching their playoff hopes start to slowly fly away in the form of a Pelican, this turned into a must-win for the Thunder. However, a Sacramento Kings team playing without stars DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay in the lineup was just what the doctor ordered and OKC took full advantage, winning 116-103.
After being embarrassed in the last matchup in Sacramento, the Thunder started off strong with a 34-point first quarter effort. However, the scrappy Kings continued to keep the game within reach thanks to some strong play by point guard Ray McCallum and some timely baskets by forward Derrick Williams.
Sacramento fought back and tied the game at 72 late in the third quarter, but a quick response bucket from Enes Kanter gave the Thunder a lead that they would not relinquish.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Though the New Orleans Pelicans also won their game tonight against the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder at least did not lose any ground as they remain just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. That pesky tiebreaker is still owned by the Pellies, however, so Oklahoma City is still having to rely on some New Orleans losses in these last few games of the season.
Tonight was certainly an encouraging win for OKC, especially after being demoralized by the immortal San Antonio Spurs this past Tuesday. Sacramento without Cousins or Gay is not much of a threat, but Oklahoma City took care of business and looked good doing it.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
Dion Waiters was battling a sore knee, but played extremely well tonight. He was aggressive all night, taking and making good shots, finding teammates for open looks, and seemed very in control with the ball in his hands. Waiters' statline reflected this, with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals to his credit. This was the kind of play that the Thunder expected when they traded for Waiters and there's no doubt that they are definitely more threatening when he plays smart basketball like he did tonight.
Westbrook's performance was effective, but relatively quiet tonight, putting up just a double-double with 27 points and 10 assists on 11-of-19 shooting. He and Kanter, who also played a really great game with 25 points and 6 boards, essentially slammed the door shut on any sort of Kings comeback in the 4th with big baskets down the stretch.
Steven Adams channelled his inner Serge Ibaka by recording 4 blocks tonight and giving Sacramento a hard time in the paint (something that the Thunder haven't been doing very much of without Ibaka in uniform).
The bench for OKC stepped up with 36 points, being led once again by the hot hand of Anthony Morrow, who dropped 19 points of his own on 5-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Speaking of the bench, we also saw the return of Nick Collison tonight, who had missed the last 9 games due to an ankle sprain. He was good for 5 points and 7 rebounds in his 20 minutes, while also taking one of his patented charges in the third quarter.
As if the Thunder needed more injuries, Perry Jones went down with an ankle injury in the last minute of garbage time and had to be helped off the court. Get well soon, PJIII.
Thunder Wonder: Dion Waiters, 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter, 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9-of-14 shooting
Thunder Blunder: None
Thunder Plunderer: Ray McCallum, 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 8-of-11 shooting
Next game: at Indiana Pacers on Sunday (4/12), 5:00 PM CDT