It is a measure of something, I suppose, that the last time the Kings were in the playoffs, they finished fourth in the Pacific. Today they’re fourth in the Pacific, having demonstrated that they’re at least somewhat better than the Lakers, but they’re mired deep in the lottery. Inconsistency consistently befalls Sacramento: down twelve at the half, they fought back to within three, ended the third quarter down eight, and then didn’t score a point for six minutes — well, 5:59 — in the fourth against the Thunder bench. At the time, it was Oklahoma City 101, Sacramento 79; had a faith healer suddenly brought Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas to life, it wouldn’t have made a whole lot of difference. Thunder 107, Kings 92, and that’s the season sweep.
How good was the OKC bench in that fourth quarter? There was no reason to bring in Kevin Durant, who finished with 23 points, ending his streak of 25-plus at 41. And Caron Butler, more or less the official sixth man when Reggie Jackson starts, also finished with 23, hitting six of six treys. (Jackson, of course, started under Restbrook conditions; Russell is being saved for the, um, “big” game tomorrow against the Clippers.) Butler had a ridiculous +28 for the night. And Steven Adams, keeping Kings out of the lane, blocked three shots, three more than Serge Ibaka. Then again, Ibaka scored 19 points, Adams 5.
The Kings, though, had the two top scorers: DeMarcus Cousins (24, 14 rebounds) and Travis Outlaw (24, a season high). Further, the Kings outrebounded the Thunder, 44-39, having demonstrated, at least early on, a talent for second-chance points. But shooting was an issue: 41 percent, only 3-14 from outside. And unexpectedly, the Thunder didn’t give them a whole lot of opportunities to cash in on mistakes: OKC had zero turnovers in the first half and finished with a mere six.
The number to watch, though, is 1.5. OKC is now 56-21; the Clippers, who had the night off, are 55-23. A game and a half. (The Timberwolves, now officially a lottery team again, vented their frustration on the Spurs, which had to be fun.) Can the Thunder win 60? They’ll have to beat the Clippers first. (Four games after that — New Orleans twice, Indiana and Detroit — and the Pacers, despite recent slumpage, are 34-6 at home.)