The Oklahoma City Thunder came into the game against the Sacramento Kings, winners of four out of their last five games. However, the team was shorthanded as several players were out due to COVID protocols. Tre Mann, JRE and Aleksej Pokusevski were some of the notable names who were unavailable for the Kings’ game.
The absences even extended to the coaching staff, Head Coach Mark Daigneault entered COVID protocols which gave Assistant Coach Mike Wilks an opportunity to lead the team.
“It’s was surreal for me, I have a lot of family and friends here in Sacramento, so a lot of things came full circle tonight,” Wilks said. “It was a silver lining in a difficult situation.”
Luguentz Dort got the Thunder off to a fast start, with eight first quarter points. In a high-scoring quarter, both teams would score over thirty points to start the game.
While the scoring numbers dwindled the competition did not. The first three quarters were back and forth, with both teams meeting an opposing scoring run with a run of their own.
“It was huge differences in scoring through the first three quarters but you can’t be phased by any specific run, you just have to recuperate and keep pushing,” Aaron Wiggins said.
Yet, in the fourth quarter the Kings began to pull away from the Thunder. Sacramento gained their largest lead of 17 points with eight minutes remaining.
Oklahoma City would not go away easy, eventually cutting the lead to single digits in the final two minutes. The comeback would fall short and the Thunder would loss 117-111 on the road against the Kings.
While the game was close throughout the Kings were simply better in certain areas tonight. First being rebounds, Sacramento had 57 rebounds to Oklahoma City’s 46, including 11 offensive rebounds.
Another being three point shooting, the Kings hit 17 threes while shooting 43%. Meanwhile, the Thunder hit just 11 threes on 33% from downtown.
One area the Thunder did dominate was free throws. As a team they were 30-36, with majority of those coming from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who shot a game high 17 free throws.
Shai did not play well and still had 33 points. He received help from one of the Thunder’s emerging contributors that somewhat compensated for the team’s absences.
Rookie Aaron Wiggins followed up his career high 24 points, with 14 more. Wiggins was one of just three Thunder players who scored in double figures and scored efficiently around the rim. Wiggins’ highlight of the game was a glide to the rim finished off with a put-back slam.
Wilks said Wiggins had a solid performance and impacted the game on both sides of the ball.
The Thunder will be on the road again against one of the league’s best in the Phoenix Suns.