Hard to get a handle on this Kings game before tipoff. We knew that Sacramento had just sacked Mike Malone, and Tyrone Corbin was anxious to prove himself as the coach. We knew that there was bad blood, or at least trash talk, between Rudy Gay and Kendrick Perkins. And we knew that DeMarcus Cousins was still out. Based on this, I assumed it was going to be a long haul, and so it was: the Thunder led by seven at halftime, by ten at the end of the third, but the Kings bench rose up and inflicted a 15-4 run on the Thunder to take a one-point lead. The OKC starters returned, a bit earlier than expected, but finished the job with 73 seconds left. Oklahoma City 104, Sacramento 92, a nice preparation for the Warriors, next on the schedule. (It didn’t hurt that the Warriors actually lost tonight, against the one team I thought could beat them: the Grizzlies.)
Despite DeAbsence of DeMarcus, the Kings were plenty tough. Reggie Evans started in the middle, spelled by Ryan Hollins. Gay had a good night, coming up with 22 points and six rebounds; Hollins and Jason Thompson contributed nine rebounds each; Carl Landry and Ramon Sessions hit double figures for the Sacramento bench, which outscored the OKC reserves 44-28. The Kings also ruled the backboards, with a 48-41 edge in rebounding, and performed well at the stripe, going 15-17.
Of late, the big story for OKC has been Russell Westbrook, and tonight was no exception: 32 points, six rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and a single turnover. (The Thunder gave it up only 12 times, the Kings 19.) Kevin Durant, in 35 minutes, popped up 26 points. Serge Ibaka didn’t shoot well — 3-10 for nine points — but he blocked seven shots. Steven Adams, once again, had double-digit rebounding (10); Anthony Morrow scored 10 to lead the bench. Kendrick Perkins did not outscore Rudy Gay, but by all accounts he outscowled him.
Next: Thursday night in Oakland, where the Warriors have lost only once all year. Where it gets interesting: Golden State, 21-3, is 9-1 over the last ten. Oklahoma City, 12-13, is — 9-1 over the last ten. Still, the Warriors remain the team to beat in the West, so if the Thunder can pull this off … well, we’ll know Friday morning.