The Kings rallied back from a 19 point deficit in the first half to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder forced the Kings into a tough shot late, and denied them an inbounds pass with 3/10ths of a second to seal the deal and get redemption for the overtime loss in Sacramento on Superbowl Sunday.
Tonight’s game was sort of a study in contrasts with the Kings. In the first half the Kings couldn’t get anything going. They were missing tons of open jumpers and turning the ball over-11 of them in the first half. Meanwhile the Thunder were playing incredibly well offensively. Spacing the floor, passing the ball and hitting the jumpers. The Thunder had a 38-12 points in the paint advantage at halftime and a 13 point lead. Along the way the Thunder shot 62% in the first quarter and 52% in the second, while the Kings shot 48% and 43% respectively. The Thunder also had a 7 rebound advantage at the half.
In the second half, the Kings were like a different team. They just completely outplayed us in the third. They came out and competed defensively and shot lights out. They had zero turns in the quarter and shot 15-21 (71%). Meanwhile the Thunder opened the quarter going 4-12, causing Brooks to almost light his hair on fire and calling his second timeout to try and settle the team down. Finally Durant caught fire towards the end of the third hitting some jumpers and a pair of threes to end the quarter. During the third the Thunder shot 43% and Durant notched his 30th point.
In the fourth, both teams looked like they were competing on defense, but there were very few stops. Both teams just lit it up. The Thunder shot 52% in the fourth, while the Kings shot 54%. But what was crazy was the ridiculous three point shooting by the Kings in the fourth, going 6-9 and making the crowd visibly nervous. But the Thunder forced Francisco Garcia into a terrible off balance three pointer to win with 3 seconds left to effectively seal the deal. Had Nick Collison hit his two free throws with 12 seconds left, no late game heroics would have been needed.
- Kyle Weaver played the best, most complete game I’ve seen from him yet. He had 4 steals (all in the first half) and tipped at least one other that he didn’t recover, he hit his shots going 4-7 and scoring 9, had 4 rebounds, 2 assists and only one turn in 28 minutes. He played pesky defense on Kevin Martin all night.
- Kevin Durant and John Salmons had a nice little “back at ya” thing going on. Salmons drove on Durant several times and Durant couldn’t stay in front of him. When Durant had the ball, he either shot over Salmons or drove around him. Neither really defended the other well.
- I thought the Thunder really spread the floor well on offense tonight. They had everybody evenly spaced widely around the floor to start their offense. It causes the Kings to have to defend each man with a man, and prevents “cheating defense” where one guy sort of cheats off and tries to guard two men at once. And it really opens up the lanes for drives.
- Westbrook couldn’t get his shot to drop, nor most of his point blank finishes either. He was 1-8 in the first half and finished 3-14 on the night.
- The team seemed to really be floundering in the first half of the third. Coach subbed in Watson for Westbrook and Krstic for Collison and the offense began to flow. It had more to do with Watson than Krstic, but Watson/Weaver seemed to work much better in the third than Westbrook/Weaver.
- I am surprised at myself, but I am firmly in the “keep Earl” camp now, and no longer in the “trade Earl at the deadline” camp. Earl has been a much better player the last month or so. He shot 45% for the month of January and is at 41% so far in February. He’s also hitting 33% on his threes lately. In November and December he shot 33% and 39% from the field respectively. Check out his splits here. He provides a very nice veteran presence, and is a steadying influence on those nights when Westbrook plays like a rookie.
- The Kings were driving me nuts in the fourth quarter-they just wouldn’t go away. Those three point bombs were ridiculous. Beno Udrih hit one with the shot clock expiring from about 40 feet out.
- Speaking of Beno, we did our best to make Beno look like an All Star tonight.
- The pace was a fairly quick 93 possessions tonight. I had the Sacramento broadcast tonight and they mentioned more than once that the Thunder ran all the time. That’s not exactly true. The Thunder seem to run hard on defensive rebounds and turnovers, transition essentially, but just trot the ball up the court after made opponent buckets. Our average pace is 93.6, or about 7th fastest in the league.
- Offensive and defensive efficiency tonight was ridiculous. Offensively we were at 124.7, one of our highest marks of the season (only higher against Golden State and the first Nuggets game). Defensively we were at 121.5, also one of our highest marks of the season (again eclipsed in the Warriors and Nuggets game).
- Only 10 turnovers is a major accomplishment for the Thunder this season.
- The Thunder had 113 scoring opportunities (FGA + FTA), while the Kings had only 96.
- The Thunder managed to get so many more shots at the basket because we outrebounded them by 7, had one more block, and two less turns.
- Durant dropped 39 points, but left his 40th bouncing off the rim with the late free throw attempt after the botched in bounds play by the Kings.
- Durant was just simply Superman tonight. There was a stretch when I couldn’t remember the last “other” Thunder player who had scored. Durant is just the heart and soul of this team, especially offensively.
- Despite Westbrook’s shooting woes, he did chip in 8 assists and only 2 turns, 2 steals and got to the line 7 times and got 5 makes.
- Collison went for 15 and 6 in 26 minutes. He got fouled by Spencer Hawes repeatedly and did a lot of work right at the rim.
- Green was quiet tonight with 15 and 7. He just never seemed to impact the game noticebly.
- Krstic hit his jumpers and scored 15, but only got his hands on one rebound….one, in 21 minutes.
- Joe Smith was hitting the front of the rim all night on his jumpers, but did get 5 rebs in 18 minutes.