In another blowout loss, the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Sacramento Kings 126-98.
The Thunder are 2-24 in their last 26 games, and tonight’s story was not much different than most of those 24 losses.
The Thunder played the right way and play hard, but the talent gap is too far and wide, especially when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort are out.
The Thunder could keep it competitive for most of the opening 12 minutes, but eventually, the Kings ballooned their lead to 20 points by the end of the first half.
Please make no mistake about it. The Thunder have been bad in the second half of the schedule.
And when a team continuously gets blown out, it’s easy for fans to become desensitized to losing and feel like most games follow the same script.
To maintain interest and their sanity, the best way to watch these games is in small doses and focusing on individuals and ignoring the scoreboard.
The Thunder have made it known all season long that the focus is on player development, and fans should follow suit.
In tonight’s edition, there were a few bright spots to take away from this otherwise forgettable night.
Darius Bazley finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
Bazley has been playing better this half of the schedule than the first, which is crucial since this stretch of games will most likely play a role in how the team views him as a long-term piece this offseason.
The shooting and turnover issues have been there, but those are growing pains for a player being asked to do many things he is probably not used to, such as carrying a large offensive load.
If Bazley can improve upon those during the summer, then there might be a real spot for him on the team in the long run.
Like most games, Aleksej Pokusevski showed flashes of brilliance camouflaged in an overall good performance tonight with 13 points and five assists.
Poku ended up starting at the two tonight in a very tall lineup where the shortest starter was Theo Maledon at 6’4”.
As the season progressed, many see Poku more as a wing than a center, and tonight was a good test run as to what a backcourt Poku could do, and the results were promising.
“We know what we’re trying to do here. We’re rebuilding,” said Poku postgame. “Of course, it’s tough to lose so many games, but at the end of the day, it’s about learning.”
Off the bench, Svi Mykhailiuk scored 14 points. I’m not sure what the Thunder plan to do with Svi as he hits RFA this summer, but he has played well enough since his trade for the team to at least discuss the possibility of keeping him around longer.
Gabriel Deck also played a season-high 31 minutes tonight.
While the stats don’t pop out, Deck continues to look like he belongs on the court and did a good job defending the post once again, which is becoming a known strength of his.
“He’s a really reliable and functional player; he’s a smart player,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault postgame about Deck’s season thus far. “He has a nice blend of toughness and also intelligence.”
Other notable performances are Jaylen Hoard finishing with 16 points, Moses Brown with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Maledon with 13 points but on 5-of-15 shooting.
“He continues to impress. We talk all the time about bringing a level of competitiveness,” said Daigneault postgame about Hoard. “He executes what we try to do on both ends with a high level of reliability.”
Considering the circumstances, tonight’s game was really a must lose game for the Thunder in terms of their drafting position.
Before the loss, the Thunder were in a four-way tie for the third-worst record in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Minnesota Timberwolves. But with tonight’s loss, the Thunder now own sole possession of the third spot.
Landing in the top three should be the goal for the Thunder. The top three spots all have the same chance of landing the first overall pick at 14%. If OKC can stay where they are at this time next week, then this tanking season will be deemed a success for most.
Next Game: The Thunder finishes their season series against the Kings on Tuesday, same time and same place.