Kings steal one on the road downing the Thunder 119-116

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Graphic: @NBCS

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Kings entered the homestretch of the NBA season knowing that they needed to really improve their record versus Western Conference teams. As they began the game in Oklahoma City on Saturday night, Sacramento was 16-22 on the season versus Western Conference foes and just 5-12 playing those teams on the road.

After losing a heartbreaker to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, the Kings had to travel to OKC to face the Thunder who feature Russell Westbrook – “the King of the triple-double” – and the potential 2018-19 MVP Paul George who own the third spot in the Western Conference.

OKC was coming off a tough Friday night

The Thunder hosted the Utah Jazz on Friday night and had to really battle to come away with a victory. That game went into two overtimes before the Thunder finally put the Jazz away 148-147.

Paul George had to play 50-minutes. Russell Westbrook spent almost 43 minutes on the floor before fouling out in the first overtime.

The Kings needed to take advantage of the Thunder playing in the second game of a back-to-back set, especially when the first game went into double overtime.

First half perfection

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Photo: @SacramentoKings

The Kings did exactly what they needed to do in the first 24-minutes of the game. Sacramento shot 50-percent (25/50) from the floor. They struggled a bit from downtown hitting just 3-of-12 (33.3%) from long range. They dished out 16 assists while turning the ball over just six times. Those six turnovers resulted in eight Thunder points.

Buddy Hield led the SAC scoring attack with 18 points in the half. He went 8-for-12 shooting including two 3-pointers. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 12 points by going 4-for-6 from the floor. Marvin Bagley III came off the bench to score 11 points and grab six rebounds.

To no one’s surprise, Russell Westbrook led the charge for Oklahoma City who looked tired and out of sync right from the opening tip-off. Westbrook put 18 points in the book while Paul George was the next leading scorer with seven points.

The Thunder shot just 35.8-percent (19/53) from the field. The had just eight assists and turned the ball over eight times which resulted in 12 Sacramento points.

At the end of the first half, the Kings held a 63-49 lead over the Thunder.

The second half had to mean a Thunder comeback

Even if they are tired, a visiting team cannot expect to keep a talented team like the Thunder from making big runs in order to get back into the game.

The Thunder went on an 18-6 run to begin the third quarter and cut the Kings lead to just two points with 7:29 to go in the period. The Kings woke up and began to play their game. Sacramento went back up by 14 points with 2:24 remaining in the quarter.

With 36-minutes in the book, the Kings still held a 94-83 lead, but everyone had a feeling that the Thunder were not ready to give up.

The final 12:00

OKC used a combination of strong play from Dennis Schroder, Paul George, Markieff Morris and of course, Russell Westbrook to fight their way back into the game one more time. By the 6:26 mark, the Thunder had cut the Kings lead to three points.

Russell Westbrook would go on to score 15 of the 33 points the Thunder would score in the quarter. The lead changed four times in the period. OKC outscored SAC 33-25 in the final 12-minutes which is what made it such a close game.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Kings free throw shooting down the stretch allowed them to hang on and win the game 119-116.

Kings by the numbers

The win raised the Kings record to 31-28 on the season which allows them to remain in sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference. The Clippers beat the Grizzlies so they are 1.5 games ahead in eighth place. The Lakers lost to the Pelicans (even with Anthony Davis held out of the game) which means they are now two games back of the Kings in 10th place.

Top performers:

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Bagley scores two of his 19 points Photo: @SacramentoKings
  • Buddy Hield led the SAC scoring attack with 34 points. “Buddy Buckets” hit 12-of-22 shots overall and went 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line. He also was very effective from the free throw line converting 7-of-9 opportunities.
  • Marvin Bagley III recorded a double-double by scoring 19 points and hauling 10 rebounds. MB35 also added three assists, three blocked shots, and two steals.
  • De’Aaron Fox also scored 19 points in the game. He also dished out nine assists, blocked three shots and added a steal.

Team performance:

  • The Kings outscored the Thunder 48-46 in the Paint
  • The Thunder won the battle of 2nd Chance Points 16-7
  • Even though they were tired, OKC scored more Fast Break Points than the Kings 25-19
  • SAC shot 45.8-percent (44/96) for the game
  • They hit 7-of-19 (36.8%) from long range
  • The Kings converted 24-of-34 (70.6%) from the free throw line. The key was the number of opportunities.
  • The team was out-rebounded 59-46 and still managed to win the game
  • Protecting the ball has become a key trait for Sacramento. They turned the ball over just nine times which resulted in 15 OKC points.
  • The Kings recorded 24 assists which denotes excellent ball movement

Checking the book for OKC

Key individuals performances:

  • Russell Westbrook was the game’s high scorer with 41 points. Westbrook connected on 15-of-30 field goal attempts and made 5-of-12 3-point shots. He also had a good night at the charity stripe converting 6-of-8 opportunities. Westbrook made it a double-double game by adding 10 rebounds.
  • Dennis Schroder came off the bench to score 14 points. The German transplant went 5-for-12 shooting.
  • Paul George also scored 14 points but he was 4-for-19 shooting for the contest. That 50-plus minutes of playing time on Friday obviously took its toll.
  • Markieff Morris put 10 points playing some key minutes late in the game for George.

Team numbers

  • The key number you need to know is the field goal shooting percentage. The Thunder shot just 38.1-percent (40/105) for the game. A team almost never wins a game in the NBA when they shoot under 40-percent. Yet, OKC came within four points of putting this game in the win column.

Up next

The Kings wrap up this 3-game road trip on Monday in Minnesota versus the Timberwolves.

The Thunder will return to action on Tuesday on the road in Denver against the Nuggets.

Warriors’ winning ways continue, hold off Wizards

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND, Calif — Reigning league MVP Stephen Curry led all scorers with 26 points and Draymond Green fell one assist shy for his 13th triple double of the season helping the Golden State Warriors fend off a pesky Washington Wizards team, 102-94 Tuesday night in front of a sold out raucous Oracle Arena crowd.

Curry shot just 9 for 20 from the field, but drilled 6 of 8 threes to go along with seven assists, seven rebounds, five steals and emphatic dunk in the closing moments of the first quarter as Golden State (67-7), tied the franchise mark for wins in a season from last season and remain on pace to break the all-time wins mark in a season.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls finished the season 72-10 en route to the NBA title.

With eight games to go, Golden State must finish no worse than 6-2 to set a new single-season record for wins in a season.

Green finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists, while Klay Thompson scored just 16 points after back-to-back games of 40+ points over the weekend for the Warriors, who picked up their 54th straight win at home dating back to last season.

Golden State is 36-0 at home this season and have a chance to break the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ 40-1 home record, an NBA record.

Washington (36-38) played Golden State very tough for three quarters, scoring 25 points off of 16 Golden State turnovers and out-scoring the Warriors in the paint, 50-40.

Golden State did dominate on the glass, out-rebounding Washington 55-48 and held the edge on fast break points, 24-13.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 17 points, Markieff Morris had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Otto Porter Jr. finished with 11 points for Washington, who allowed Golden State to close the first half on a 12-0 run to take a 49-46 lead after building a nine-point lead.

Both teams return to floor quickly Wednesday with Golden State flying to Salt Lake City to play a surging Utah Jazz team, while Washington looks to bounce back when they visit Sacramento.





Warriors shake off slow start, sink Suns

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Stephen Curry finished with 25 points and Klay Thompson scored 22 points to help the Golden State Warriors stop a two-game losing streak with a 106-87 win over the Phoenix Suns Saturday night at Oracle Arena.

“We got back to our style of basketball,” said Curry, who combined with Thompson shot 19-for-30 from the floor. “We we’re slumping a little bit and wasn’t playing well, so this was big for us.”

Harrison Barnes added 13 points and eight rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 14, and Andre Iguodala finished with 12 points for Golden State (37-8), who shook off a sluggish start where the missed their first 10 shots of the game.

Daymond Green fell one point short of a double-double, scoring nine points and grabbing 11 rebounds. During one timeout, Green was heard telling teammates, “we got to get our focus back and play better.”

Phoenix jumped out to a 40-28 lead midway through the second quarter, but rallied to close out the frame to take a 52-51 lead into halftime and never looked back.

After finding themselves down by 12 to Phoenix, Golden State outscored the Suns 78-47 the rest of the way that proved to be difference.

Golden State’s 15-2 run midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference for the Warriors, who got back into the win column.

“Great effort by our guys tonight,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “The defensive effort in the second half was tremendous. We closed out on the shooters, got into passing lanes, got back on track.”

Golden State shot 46 percent from the floor (40-for-87), while holding one of the NBA’s best scoring teams to well under their 100 points per game average and 36 percent shooting (33-for-91).

The Warriors had seven players with two or more assists led by Curry’s seven.

Phoenix did get the best of Golden State on the glass, outrebounding the Warriors 52-44.

“We have great passers on our team,” said Barbosa. “It helped the team and we were able to get the ball moving and played better tonight.”

Markieff Morris had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Eric Bledsoe finished with 16 points for Phoenix (28-21) just fell apart in the second half.

Goran Dragic scored 10 points and Isaiah Thomas added 13 points. Phoenix shot 35 percent on 3s (9-for-26).

The Warriors improved to 22-2 at Oracle Arena this season. With a 12-3 record in January, it was Golden State’s best January since the 1974-75 season.

Golden State heads up to Sacramento Tuesday to take on the Kings.