Game 63 Recap – Thunder 108, Kings 102

I want to start out by saying that the officiating in this game was truly atrocious. I hate complaining about officials. I believe the players dictate the game and decide their destiny for winning or losing. I don’t buy into the officials influencing the way a game is decided. With tonight, I don’t feel like they decided the game one-way or the other. At the same time, it was truly horrid officiating.

And it was atrocious on both sides. Tommy Nunez Jr., Greg Willard and Gary Zielinski were the refs for this game and if they go back and look at the tape, I’m almost certain they’ll be embarrassed by this performance. They looked like amateurs. As a JV assistant coach, I’ve seen my fair share of horrible officiating over the past five months. I’ve seen ineptness on the way a game is officiated that I never thought was possible. For junior varsity high school games, they don’t exactly throw the cream of the crop your way. Tonight’s officiating job was the NBA equivalent of watching JV refs trying to figure it out.

On multiple occasions, it seemed like they couldn’t figure out where the ball was supposed to be taken out of bounds. A foul on one end of the floor was not called on the other end. Nocioni would berate the officials and not get a technical foul. Moments later, Durant would get fouled, make the basket and get T’d up for something he muttered right after. Nocioni got called for a flagrant foul because he ran into Westbrook and Westbrook lost his balance. Westbrook gets hacked and goes to the free throw line. Tyreke does the same thing and the whistle is swallowed. Ibaka throws elbows and the whistle is swallowed. Jeff Green gets slapped and there’s no call at all.

It just didn’t make any sense to see the flow of this game nearly butchered by the refs.

They let the game get chippy and overly physical then tried to reign it in a bit by giving techs to the Thunder players. After that, they would let it go again until it seemed that both teams were trying to see what they could get away with. The Thunder were able to hack most of the night. The Kings were able to ride guys like it was a carousel. It would have been nice to get some consistency.

With that said, this was a really strange game and all too telling of the problems the Kings have had over the past 30 games. The Kings got killed on the boards. Absolutely murdered. The Thunder often just wanted the ball more and they took. Russell Westbrook ripped the ball away from Spencer Hawes. Serge Ibaka was more of a man inside than the majority of the guys the Kings tried to box him out with. Hell, that’s when the Kings actually DID box out. Too often they watched the ball fly off the rim and react way too slowly to go get it.

The Kings never seemed like they should be in this game. The Thunder got out and ran the ball down the Kings throats. The Thunder would get to the paint whenever they wanted but if they weren’t at the rim, they weren’t finishing their shots. They missed a lot of looks from the perimeter. They made their free throws but they turned the ball over during key runs. Their ball movement was solid but not as good as the previous contests. Russell Westbrook didn’t do as good of a job setting up the offense and yet he got to the basket whenever he wanted and the Thunder scored 108 points with an offensive efficiency of 113.7. Like I said, it was just strange. The Thunder didn’t look as good as they did in previous games and let the Kings hang around way too long and yet, they seemed to have complete control of this game.

For the Kings, everything was okay but nothing was good enough. This is a GOOD Oklahoma City Thunder team. They’re a low post scorer away from being Top 5 in the NBA and I completely mean that. Durant is a perfect scorer. Westbrook is a good instigator and the top of the offense. Jeff Green is extremely versatile and they have great role players in Ibaka, Thabo and Harden who can do the dirty work. So when the Kings are not boxing out and missing free throws, they have no chance of winning against a team like this. This was a great learning experience for the Kings because they see where they want to be in a couple of years with how the Thunder are now. They can look at the defense the Thunder played and the way they executed on offense to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And now, here are some game notes:

- There are so many times in which I walk away from an average game by Tyreke Evans and think, “Wow, he was incredible!” After this game in which he finished with 24 points, seven assists and four rebounds against just two turnovers, I walked away thinking he wasn’t very good. His defense was okay but Russell Westbrook dominated the fourth quarter. You’d like to see Tyreke decide that Westbrook wasn’t going to score anymore and just lock him up. We’ve seen him do it before in small doses. It would have been nice to see him do this with Westbrook.

- And the free throw shooting of Tyreke is becoming a problem. The 74% on the year looks fine and dandy but check out his charity stripe work since February 1st. He’s 71/114, which is good/bad for 62%. He’s only had five games in which he’s shot over 70% from the line and only two of those (two games in which he went 5/5 in each game) were above 78%. In the last nine games, ‘Reke is shooting 39/70 from the line (55%). He’s getting to the line a fantastic amount per game for a rookie guard but he’s not capitalizing on it.

- Another strange thing about this game? Tyreke was 2/3 from three. And all of the threes looked good.

- Last thing on Tyreke, I thought he did a good job distributing the ball tonight. He finished with seven assists and easily could have had 10 of them. He still struggles running the pick-and-roll. In fact, he’s awful at running it and you’d like to see him get good at it with Carl Landry. But the pick-and-pop and dribble penetration looks he opened for players were great.

- Want a reason for why the Kings couldn’t take over in the fourth and close this game out? Carl Landry scored one point in the fourth quarter. Tyreke had five points and missed three free throws.

- Francisco Garcia was the only guy who stepped up offensively. Not only did Cisco do a great job of defending Kevin Durant (two points, 1/5 shooting, zero free throw attempts) but he made a couple of big threes and led the team in the fourth quarter scoring with eight. It was the best game of the season for Cisco by far. If he can play like this then the Kings don’t have to waste fourth quarter minutes on Ime Udoka. They’ll have their clutch defender.

- First play of the game, the Kings ran a great back screen play for Donté Greene and Spencer Hawes delivered a perfect lob pass for the alley-oop. I’d like to see more plays like this in which they utilize Donté’s length and athleticism.

- I find it hilarious that people think Andres Nocioni plays dirty. It shows the level of toughness that the new NBA culture breeds. Nocioni is a physical player. He’s a tough defender. I don’t think he’s dirty. I didn’t think he was dirty in Chicago and I don’t think he’s dirty now. Is he annoying as a defender? Absolutely. It’s not his fault the majority of the league is soft.

- I thought this was a hilarious quote from Kevin Durant after the game. He was asked about if anyone has been able to stay in front of Westbrook. He said no that Russell was too strong and quick. Then he said this: “He can dribble a basketball pretty well and has a lot of dribble moves.” I don’t know why I found it so funny. To me, it’s like when you try to simplify analyzing Kevin Durant and call him a “good basketball player.” Well, Russell Westbrook can “dribble a basketball pretty well.” Hilarious.

- Finally, Jason Thompson returned with a solid performance. He had 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. His jumper was a little suspect (2/6) but he was aggressive in his first game back. He hit the boards and seemed to have no problems with the back. Good to have him back with Carl Landry in the lineup.

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