The Oklahoma City Thunder could not extend their winning streak in Sacramento tonight, falling for the second time in a row to the Kings, 117-113. In a game that felt very much like a redux of the first time out, OKC’s defense struggled for much of the night, only putting together one solid third quarter, but otherwise failing to slow down Sacramento.
Russell Westbrook, just like the last time they played, made his return to the court following injury, but Westbrook’s play did not inspire a strong performance all around. Westbrook finished with 29 points, but took 10 3-pointers and, despite making 4 of them, his shot selection was indicative. Overall, the team took a blood-letting 41 threes on the night, making only 12, with Westbrook, Paul George and Dennis Schroder combining to take 30 of those (making 8 combined). Perhaps that number, coupled with only 16 free throws attempted (only two by Westbrook), underscored how poorly OKC executed for much of the night, settling instead of attacking.
And while it appeared on the surface the Kings were firing on all cylinders — and they were for the first half — OKC’s poor offense and shot selection was a primary driver in the Kings’ fast-flowing and transition offense, which opened Sacramento up to hit 16-38 from three (42.1%).
The Thunder, who battled back to take the lead heading into the 4th quarter, could not capitalize on the effort, and the final frame bore resemblance to the last loss. Each time OKC made a push, they would fall victim to a forced shot or missed opportunity, and the Kings — particularly Buddy Hield who knocked down three 3-pointers in the 4th, all within a span of less than 90 seconds — made them pay every time, sending the lead back to double digits with 2:23 to play. Rookie Marvin Bagley III was a notable spark, battling inside against Steven Adams for much of the 4th. While Adams as usual put the work in, finishing with 11 and 15 (7 ORBs), it is telling that the rookie, coming off the bench, not only went toe to toe, but grabbed 13 boards (6 offensive) and was often a target for De’Aaron Fox in the 4th, scoring 12 of the team’s 33 points. Adams had a single shot attempt in the 4th and failed to score.
At the end of the day, the Thunder were down several current role players — Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, and Nerlens Noel — and that does matter in terms of overall consistency and support. That said, these are the types of games there a team’s leaders and stars should be expected to perform at a high level, and Westbrook and George simply didn’t do that.
While Westbrook did make some key plays in the end to keep it close, by and large the best guard play OKC had was from rookie Hamidou Diallo, who finished with 18 points on 7-7 shooting, including 2-2 from three. And Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot played his second strong game in a row, finishing with 11 on 5-8 shooting. Meanwhile, Schroder — who should have been playing with less pressure, not having to go against starters — was really bad, finishing only 3-17 on the night with 4 turnovers, and missed an open corner-3 with 13 seconds remaining that could have pulled OKC to within a point. OKC’s supporting players did their part. It’s too bad the team’s stars couldn’t do theirs.
Next game: @ Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 9:30CST
post script: The game’s TV broadcast was blacked out for me, so I had to consume it purely through listening to the radio broadcast. I hope my recap aligns with what those of you observed visually.