Road Reaction: Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Sacramento Kings 95

The Sacramento Kings kept it close early, but from the mid-second quarter on, the Oklahoma City Thunder controlled the game.  The Kings bench fought hard, but Oklahoma City was just too tough, picking up win No. 60 on the season by a final of 104-95.

Isaiah Thomas got fired up in the third quarter and started bombing from deep, but he was the only Kings starter that seemed ready to put up a fight tonight in Oklahoma City.

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 and eight assists for the playoff-bound Thunder.

Notes and Analysis

  • Tyreke Evans was a man on a mission before taking a bad step and straining his left quad in the first quarter.  The soon-to-be restricted free agent went down in a heap, initially appearing to have injured his left knee.  Evans finished the game with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting before exiting the game.
  • If LeBron James didn’t exist, Kevin Durant would win the MVP every year.  The 6-foot-9 wing is unstoppable from almost anywhere on the floor.  Like most teams, the Kings have no answer for a player with that type of length and skill.  Durant owned the Kings again tonight, as he has almost every time these two teams have matched up in his career.  The All-NBA performer scored 29 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out eight assists.
  • Russell Westbrook is just faster and stronger than any other point guard in the league.  When he lowers his shoulders and goes to the rack, there is no stopping the former UCLA Bruin.  While he can get a little bit selfish at times, Westbrook is the perfect compliment to Durant.
  • Isaiah Thomas mixed it up with Westbrook a little bit in the third and then used that to fuel him down the stretch.  The Kings starting point guard scored a team-high 16 points, including 4-for-8 from long range.
  • Travis Outlaw had one of those rare games where he winds up making an immediate difference.  The seldom-used forward played hard, scoring 15 points off the Kings’ bench in 24 minutes of action.
  • Cole Aldrich is playing extremely well down the stretch for the Kings and tonight was no exception.  For the second-straight game, the former lottery pick dropped a double-double on one of his former teams, scoring 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in the loss.
  • Stat of the Night: The Kings shot just 12-for-21 from the free throw line in a highly competitive game.  That’s a tough pill to swallow in a nine-point loss.

Three answers to three questions pondered:

1.  Will DeMarcus Cousins play?

The call came in late but as expected, Cousins’ 16th technical was rescinded and the Kings starting center was available for tonight’s game in Oklahoma.  This marked the second time this season that Cousins had a technical foul set aside upon review.  While he started and played 25 minutes, he was ineffective in the game, scoring just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting and turning the ball over five times.

2.  If Cousins doesn’t play, which Kings big man steps up in his absence?

With Cousins returning, the starting line-up remained the same.  But against a team like the Thunder, you need some big time help from your bench.  Aldrich answered the call tonight, leading the Kings reserves with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

3.  Will it be another night of listless basketball for the Kings? 

The starters came out cold, but the Kings bench kept them in this one all the way down the stretch.  Smart stuck with the line-up of Outlaw, Aldrich, Jimmer, Patrick Patterson and Thomas for most of the fourth quarter.  When John Salmons, DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson combine to shoot 6-for-25, you need someone to step up.  And tonight, it was a solid group of misfit toys off the bench.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".