10:30 PM ET, February 9, 2012
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
It was tough to overlook the youthful Kings after Tyreke Evans scored 22 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and nine rebounds in Sacramento's 106-101 comeback victory that dropped Oklahoma City to second overall in the NBA.,
It was a difficult start to the season for the Kings, who had a 2-5 record and were a troubled team on and off the court when coach Paul Westphal was fired. The turnaround has been gradual for the Kings, the youngest team in the NBA. But they have improved under new coach Keith Smart and the latest victory was their fourth in five games.
"We've improved as a team, we're on the right path now," said Cousins, who was clearly unhappy under Westphal. "We're a lot better than our record (10-16) shows. We've grown so much from the team we used to be."
That growth surfaced against the Thunder, an experienced team that a year ago lost to the eventual-champion Dallas Mavericks the Western Conference finals. It was Oklahoma City that looked like the inexperienced team, committing 23 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter when it was outscored 30-23. The turnovers led to 28 Sacramento points.
"I thrive on a team that creates high deflections because that gets you on a good level on nights when you're not scoring," said Smart, whose team won despite shooting 40 percent. "Deflections, steals and altered shots can get you in the open court. We have some fabulous guys that can get out into the open court and make plays."
The Kings didn't make a field goal in the final 2 minutes, but still kept the sellout crowd that was dressed primarily in black, matching the Kings' uniforms, roaring with approval. Sacramento's final nine points came on free throws.
"We had a good lead and in the last five or six minutes we've been good all season," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "But the turnovers hit us tonight. We played with good effort, but we didn't play with a controlled effort."
Struggling for three quarters, the streak-shooting Thornton found his stroke in the fourth. He scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers that came at big moments.
"I wasn't having a very good game, but I made shots when they counted, that's what I've done my whole career," Thornton said. "I was trying to get myself going in the fourth quarter and try to make some shots and turn the game around."
James Harden scored 17 points for the Thunder, 11-5 on the road. Serge Ibaka tied his career high with 10 blocks, and added nine rebounds. His block total was one short of the Sacramento arena record of 11 set by David Robinson of San Antonio. The Thunder had a franchise-record 17 blocks.
"It was just frustrating to lose because Serge had a great game tonight," Durant said. "He was closing up the rim, in the paint, and we couldn't close it out for him. It was a tough loss, but we have to move on. We have a game tomorrow (in Utah) and we can't harp on this one."
After Westbrook's jumper gave Oklahoma City a one-point lead, Green made two free throws and Evans added another, giving the Kings a 101-99 lead. Durant missed a jumper, and Cousins was fouled after securing the rebound. Cousins made two free throws to give Sacramento a 103-99 lead with 27.4 seconds left.
Trailing by eight points, the Kings refused to fold late in the fourth. They scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer from Thornton that pulled them to 95-94 with 2:42 left.
Thornton hit another 3 to tie it at 97.
The Thunder will conclude their five-game trip Friday night in Utah. ... After a slow first quarter, Westbrook got going in the second, scoring nine points. ... Kings reserve forward Chuck Hayes matched his season high in the opening half, scoring eight points. He failed to score in the second.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||37-77 (.481)||40-99 (.404)|
|3PM-3PA||7-18 (.389)||7-20 (.350)|
|FTM-FTA||20-26 (.769)||19-26 (.731)|
|Fast Break Points||19||23|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||24 (0/0)||19 (1/0)|
Next 5 Games
The Kings improve to 10-16 this season; 7 of those 10 wins were against playoff teams from last season.
The Thunder blocked 17 shots, which sets a new franchise record (this includes when they were the Seattle SuperSonics). Their previous record was 16 at the Lakers on November 22, 2009. Oddly enough, they also lost that game (101-85). The Warriors were the last team to block 17 or more shots and lose. Golden State blocked 17 shots and lost at home to Atlanta, 100-94, on February 17, 2002. The 17 blocks are a season high in the NBA. The Bulls held the previous high of 16, set on January 20th in a 114-75 win at the Cavaliers.
Serge Ibaka: the 10 blocks tie a franchise record, which he already shared entering the game. Ibaka is the only player this season to record double-digit blocks in a single game - he's accomplished that feat twice.[+]
Ibaka has 10 blocks tonight, his 2nd such game of the season. He is the only player with 10 blocks in a game this season and the 1st player to have 2 10-block games in the same season since Marcus Camby in 2007-08.
ESPN Stats & Information