In what was assuredly one of the most disappointing results of the season thus far, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fallen to the Sacramento Kings, 104-116. The Thunder were missing Kevin Durant, and chose to replace him in the starting lineup with Anthony Morrow. Morrow certainly replaced Durant's offensive production, scoring 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Serge Ibaka did his part to step up in Durant's absence as well, scoring a season high 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting. Even Steven Adams got in on the action, scoring 15 points. Yes, that's a season high for him as well.
But it wasn't a similarly rosy day for the rest of the Thunder's big scorers. Russell Westbrook shot a putrid 26% from the floor tonight. Dion Waiters was 1 of 7, as his jumpshot was nowhere to be found. Even Enes Kanter struggled, as he went 1 of 5 against the wall of Cousins, Cauley-Stein, and Koufos. When the Thunder face such an offensively potent team, they just can't have all of that offensive negative energy.
DeMarcus Cousins led the way for the Kings, finishing with 33 points and 19 rebounds. It was one of the most effective games from Cousins in recent memory, as he was able to keep Adams in foul trouble and have his way with Enes Kanter. Rondo was Cousins' assist man, and finished with a superb 19 assists and 5 steals. The Kings also got significant lifts from their wings, as Marco Bellinelli, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison all finished with 14+ points and shot around 40%.
Why did the Thunder lose this game?
Perhaps most publicly, Russell Westbrook lost the point guard battle with Rajon Rondo. Rondo finished the game with 19 assists and 6 turnovers, while Westbrook had 15 assists and 7 turnovers. Rondo scored an efficient 13 points, shooting 5 of 11 from the floor. Westbrook scored an inefficient 17 points, shooting 6 of 23 from the floor. Rondo was hounding Westbrook all night, expending significant energy guarding him end to end. Westbrook couldn't get into the paint at all, and ended up taking a ton of open threes that the Kings were giving him. Still, Russ did find Ibaka and Morrow on a number of occasions. Great work in the pick and pop game.
This was also a game where the Thunder's bench failed to perform. With 2:51 left to go in the first quarter, the Thunder had a 31-16 lead. Then, Enes Kanter entered the game and stunk it up with his terrible defense. It's not as if Kanter wasn't trying, but the Kings exploited him around screens consistently. Cousins also had no trouble scoring on Kanter. Kanter's defense would turn out to be a problem all night long, and it's probably why he was subbed out very early in the third quarter.
The subs from Donovan were all over the place tonight, but with how terrible the bench was performing, it's easy to understand why. Mitch McGary got minutes in the second, but he got scored on in transition by Rondo and didn't prove to be much of a factor. This led to Donovan going with a super small lineup. Kyle Singler played power forward for a solid four minutes in the second. At one point, Singler was matched up with the 7 foot Willie Cauley-Stein. But it all didn't make much of a difference. The Kings kept exploiting Kanter. So Donovan decided to solve the problem by riding Ibaka out for the rest of the game, with a tiny splash of Nick Collison at the beginning of the fourth. Considering how important Collison's defense has been against Cousins in the past, I wasn't too thrilled with Donovan's choices.
Anyway, obviously, Steven Adams' fouls play a huge role in this equation as well. Adams just couldn't seem to catch any luck when he fouled Cousins on a rebound with 3:21 to go in the third, bringing his total to four. But I can't justify what Donovan did later. Donovan put Adams in with 10:52 to go in the fourth, before Cousins had ever taken the floor. Adams immediately proceeded to foul guarding Willie Cauley-Stein at the rim, and then had to be taken out with 5 fouls. This left the Thunder without a center for about 5 minutes. The Kings outscored the Thunder 12-8 during that stretch, with 4 points from Cousins.
How did the Thunder lose this game?
Realizing Big Blue was going to lose tonight was slow and painful. The Thunder got to within 5 points in the early fourth quarter. But the Kings quickly got their lead back to 10 by exploiting the Thunder's big men and pushing it in transition. After the 10:17 mark, the closest the Thunder would come was 8 points. It felt like OKC had some momentum with 3:50 to go, and they had two chances to cut into an 8 point lead. But Westbrook lost the ball running into a crowd and missed a pull up three.
Really, OKC came into the fourth quarter behind the 8 ball and had nothing going their way. Westbrook was in a huge slump, and tired. Ibaka was tired. Adams was in foul trouble. And Morrow wasn't there to bail them out with shooting until it was too late. And rookie Cameron Payne was looked to for much of the offense. I commend Payne's performance, as he scored all of his points in the fourth quarter. But Payne couldn't carry the team alone.
- Andre Roberson's defense was decent, but it was clear that his lack of presence hurt the Thunder on offense sometimes. Hard to say how much of a place he had in this game, but his defense helped at times all the same. Especially loved his trademark steal for a dunk, probably taught to him by Thabo.
- Kyle Singler was 2-4, and had a really memorable drive to the rim. Glad that he scored, but his -17 +/- ratio might tell you all you need to know.
- Mitch McGary didn't really get a chance.
- The Kings had 10 points on 8 offensive rebounds in the first half, but just 2 points on 5 offensive rebounds in the second half.
- It felt like the Thunder were running plays to set up threes early on, but then that totally collapsed.
- Ibaka and Westbrook got tired tonight, no question. No reason for them to play 40+ minutes.
- This was the Thunder's first loss to the Sacramento Kings at home. Ever.
- McLemore (sore back), Cauley-Stein (bleeding finger on side of backboard) out with mid-game injuries. Strange stuff.
Thunder Wonder: Anthony Morrow, who could have used more shots
Thunder Down Under: Ibaka, 5 blox reminds me of when he was young
Thunder Blunder: Enes Kanter, who I wish was stronger than Cousins
Thunder Plunderer: DeMarcus Cousins
Next Game: Versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Wednesday, December 6th, 8:30 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!