The Sacramento Kings are limping to the finish – literally, not figuratively. Already playing without Isaiah Thomas, the Kings were without two more starters against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who defeated Sacramento 107-92 on Tuesday evening.
“His back has really been bothering him the last two days,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said of Gay. “Could he have played? I’m sure he could have, but we felt it was best to have him sit out tonight and try and get him ready to play tomorrow night up in Portland.”
With Gay and Thomas missing in action, DeMarcus Cousins shouldered some of the load for the Kings. The Thunder had no answer for the Kings starting center, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. It was Cousins’ 50th double-double of the season, tying a Sacramento-era record previously set by Chris Webber during the 2000-01 season.
Travis Outlaw also picked up the scoring slack left by Gay and Thomas. Outlaw started in place of Gay in the lineup and finished with a season-high 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting in the 15-point loss.
“Of course it was extra responsibility out there,” Cousins said of playing without Gay in the lineup. “But I think Travis did an incredible job tonight picking up that slack. He was aggressive. He made a lot of shots for us. I feel like he did a good job under the circumstances. But regardless of who we have out there, there’s no excuse to not get out there and compete and leave it all on the floor.”
The Kings played the Thunder tough for two-and-a-half quarters of play. Trailing by 69-65, the Thunder proceeded to pull away, outscoring the Kings 38- 29 from the halfway point of the third quarter to the end of the game. The Kings didn’t help their cause by going scoreless in the first six minutes of action in the fourth quarter either.
“We were down eight in between the the third and fourth,” Malone said. “And I thought the guys who started the fourth quarter just played badly. We let them go on a 13-0 run. We had some guys that played with no energy and it looked like they didn’t even want to be out there. It was disappointing.”
Kevin Durant led the way for the Thunder in victory. The All-Star wing scored 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting in just 31 minutes of play. However, his streak of scoring 25 or more points in 41-straight contests came to an end with the victory in hand early in the fourth quarter.
“When I sit back after this season is over with, that’s when I’ll reflect on everything that I’ve done, that the team’s done,” Durant said of the streak coming to an end. “I’m sure I’ll appreciate it then. But now I’m just focused on game to game and how we can get better as a group and how I can help the team get better.
“I was getting so many texts after every game,” he added. “I’m glad that’s over with and I’m just focused on the team. If we play well and I have 25 points, that takes away from how well the team is playing and I didn’t like that. If we lost, it was all about me scoring 25 points (and) I didn’t like that either. I’m glad we just talk about the team now.”
Like the Kings, the Thunder were also playing short-handed. Russell Westbrook, who has battled knee issues this year, sat out Tuesday’s game because Oklahoma City is not playing him in back-to-back contests the rest of the regular season. The Thunder travel to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers tomorrow evening.
The Kings fall to 27-51 overall, 16-23 at home. They return to action tomorrow night when they travel north to play the Portland Trail Blazers.
Notes and Analysis
- DeMarcus Cousins destroyed the Thunder frontline all night long, scoring 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 35 minutes. Cousins notched his 50th double-double of the season, tying Chris Webber for the Sacramento-era single season record for most double-doubles.
- With Rudy Gay taking a night off with a lower back strain, Travis Outlaw got the start and played extremely well for coach Michael Malone. The veteran forward finished with 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting. He added five rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes.
- Jason Thompson started for the injured Reggie Evans (sore lower back) and added a nice punch in the post. Thompson dropped in 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but struggled to guard Serge Ibaka, especially in the first half.
- Ben McLemore missed a few easy ones early, but rebounded to score 11 points and eight boards. On an encouraging note, McLemore was aggressive going to the rack and shot 4-for-4 from the line.
- Ray McCallum had a nightmare of a game, scoring seven points on 3-of-14 shooting. He handed out five assists and turned the ball over twice in his 46 minutes of action.
- Derrick Williams was completely MIA tonight for Malone, hitting a lone free throw on his way to a one-point game. Williams has faded quickly down the stretch, but not taking a single shot in 20 minutes of play is a major red flag. He’s a solid player when he’s aggressive and tonight, he was not.
- Stat of the Night: Kevin Durant’s streak of 41 consecutive games with 25 points or more officially came to an end tonight when the MVP candidate finished with 23 points.
Quote of the Night
Michael Malone on whether fatigue played a factor in the lackluster start to the fourth quarter:
“Not at all. The guys that were fatigued were Travis Outlaw and DeMarcus Cousins. Some of the guys that started the fourth quarter hadn’t played a ton of minutes and for those guys to not play with energy, effort, and a competitive spirit like their teammates had is disappointing.
The great thing is that we have another team tomorrow night that is fighting for their spot in the playoffs. We have another chance to go out there and see if we can improve upon what we did tonight. Tonight, I enjoyed how we played for three quarters. We didn’t play perfect all the time, and we made mistakes, but we were competing. That’s what I told my team before the game—whether we have eight guys or nine guys, we have enough bodies in here to go out there and play and compete and to be proud of the effort that we put forth. For three quarters we did that, but I can’t say that we did in the fourth.”
Video shot and edited by Kimani David.