Oklahoma City scored the first ten points at Arco Arena tonight, but everyone knew that lead wasn’t going to hold up. The Thunder led by one after the first quarter; the Kings had tied it up at the half. The Thunder led by eight after the third quarter; with ten seconds left, the Kings had pulled to within two. Then Sacramento flubbed it: Andres Nocioni put up an air ball, Bobby Jackson went for the rebound, and the ball bounced out of bounds. The Thunder got the ball back, and with 3.4 seconds left, Thabo Sefolosha sank two free throws, but not Sacramento’s hopes. The Kings, undaunted, used 2.2 seconds to land a trey; Russell Westbrook fumbled the inbound out of bounds, and the Kings got off one last futile shot in the last tenth of a second. Oklahoma City 99, Sacramento 98, the Thunder taking the series 2-1.
The return of Jeff Green was welcome: he rattled down 22 points, including 9 for 9 from the stripe. Westbrook also had 22. But between them, they had 14 turnovers, which explains much about how the Kings were never out of it until literally the very end. Nenad Krstić played Terminator tonight, grabbing 15 boards and blocking three shots to go with his nine points; Malik Rose had 11 points and six rebounds. The Thabster once again held his target (Kevin Martin) to half his point quota. And with Green back, Nick Collison inexplicably (at least, no one explained it to me) drew a DNP-CD.
The Kings had five in double figures, led by Spencer Hawes (20 points, 10 rebounds). As always, Francisco Garcia was sharp from off the bench; he hit 6 of 7 from the floor, four of them treys, for 18 points. Sacramento did foul a lot, though both Hawes and Nocioni piled up five and the Thunder responded by hitting 22 of 23 free throws.
Oklahoma City is now 18-46. The tour of the West continues tomorrow at Denver and winds up Saturday at Phoenix.