We were all bracing for the worst as the Kings closed down Oklahoma City’s 11-point third quarter lead to just three heading into the fourth. It was the Memphis game all over again.
But the Thunder bench (plus Jeff Green) wasn’t going to let that happen. OKC’s stellar second unit started the fourth on a 12-2 run, pushing the Thunder’s lead out to a comfortable double-digit lead.
Then we were all bracing again as the Thunder let that lead slip to just two. Kevin Durant missed two free throws with the Thunder leading by two, 99-97, and gave the Kings an opportunity to win or tie with five seconds left. Tyreke Evans went for the gold launching a 3, but came up short.
While KD probably won’t sleep tonight as he replays those two free throws over in his head time and again, he was fantastic in closing this one. He scored OKC’s last 14 points, hitting signature jumpers off curls, pull-ups and the dribble. Every time the Kings tried to close in on the Thunder, Durant would knock in another jumper. He started the third quarter 0-5 and looked to be on his way to a rough finish, but he got himself going again with two solid finishes at the rim to close the third and carried that over to the big fourth. He finished with 35 on 13-22 shooting, but of course he’s not happy about the five misses at the stripe.
The Kings helped the Thunder a good amount, turning it over 18 times. To start the fourth, Sacramento had only two field goal attempts in the first six minutes. They turned it over four times and because of that, OKC stretched out to a double-digit lead. Really, the Kings played the part of Tuesday’s Thunder in this one. Sacramento outrebounded OKC 49-36, shot a solid 45 percent and played good enough defense. But turnovers and missed free throws ended up costing them.
After the solid start to the fourth quarter, the finish certainly leaves a bitter aftertaste, but the Kings aren’t a team that goes quietly. And OKC did just enough. Remember, this game could’ve ended with that Tyreke 3 dropping through the net and we’d be feeling like we did after the Memphis game. Instead, it’s a Thunder road win and despite there being some eyesores in the box score, it obviously feels better than the alternative.
- The most interesting thing from this game is that Eric Maynor saw the final three crunch time minutes over Russell Westbrook. It’s not like Russ was playing bad though. He had 22 points on 8-16 shooting, seven assists, five rebounds and only three turnovers. Scott Brooks said after the game: “I have a confidence in [the bench]. That’s why at the very end of the game, I thought Eric was playing really good and I put him back in.”
- OKC’s starters: -8, -13, -9, -10, -4. OKC’s bench: +21, +6, +2, +12, +13. The +21 is from Nick Collison. What a classic Collison line. He was 0-0 from the floor, had zero points and just two rebounds, but was a +21. I love that guy.
- The Thunder had just 12 assists in the game. That’s pretty ugly.
- OKC missed nine free throws and went just 2-13 from 3. And those two 3s? One was a Maynor halfcourter at the end of the first quarter and the other a bank from Durant after the rip move. Not a great shooting night.
- What the crap was wrong with the officiating crew tonight? The Thunder was hit with three technical fouls in this one. Westbrook got one for complaining after a carrying call, Ibaka was hit for an inadvertent bump on Cousins and Maynor got hit for saying something. It’s odd because this team is one of the least T’d teams in the league. Westbrook absolutely deserved his, but Ibaka and Maynor’s were certainly questionable.
- That said, OKC definitely got the good end of the whistle other than the techs. It felt like the Thunder were getting some gifts.
- Scott Brooks went with James Harden over Thabo for most of the fourth. I loved the move. Harden checked Evans for most the night and despite Evans having 30, Harden did a pretty solid job. Plus with Harden on the floor, OKC had an extra offensive option which just helps clear space for KD running off those screens. Harden had just 11 on 3-9 shooting, but did pick up five steals.
- OKC is 15-3 after a loss. And 10-1 on the road with a lead going into the fourth.
- Jeff Green with another stinker. He had just eight points on 4-10 shooting and four rebounds. And I can’t really find much to say he did well. His defense was mostly unnoticeable, he didn’t make any big plays to speak of and just kind of drifted.
- Jeff Green has only two offensive rebounds in the month of February.
- KD’s facial expressions at the end of the game were weird. It was like he was in shock with what happened. He couldn’t believe he missed those two free throws.
- Was it just me or did Nenad Krstic appear to have a little extra burst tonight? He had two dunks, but I noticed it when he made a post move on cutting across the paint for a hook shot. He missed it, but looked good doing it.
- Tyreke Evans played 46 minutes in this one. That’s a bunch of minutes for a guy battling foot issues.
- Tonight’s “Did Brian Davis really say that: “He’s just scootin’ and tootin’ his way to the hole!” (Answer: No he didn’t. A pretty tame night for Davis, but you can picture him saying that, can’t you?)
Next up: At the Warriors Sunday.