by Charlie O. Mallonee
SACRAMENTO–On a night that felt more like a Hollywood awards show than a basketball game, the Sacramento Kings pulled off a storybook ending to close out their 2015-16 home schedule and to end their 28-year stay in Sleep Train/ARCO Arena.
The Kings defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-112 in front of a raucous, adoring sellout crowd that desperately wanted the team’s final game in the old building to be a victory. The crowd did its part. They were loud and into the game from the opening tip-off right up to the final buzzer.
The Kings did their job. They played the very talented Oklahoma City Thunder in a tough, physical manner that was worthy of a heavyweight boxing match. Every time the Thunder threw a punch, the Kings returned a punch. The Kings kept the game close then took the lead and fought back each time they lost the lead. There were 12 lead changes and the game was tied 12 times.
The game came down to the free throw shooting of Rudy Gay. Gay went to the free throw line three times in the final 17.4-seconds. He made 4-0f-6 chances from the charity stripe. None more important than the final shot with one second left to go in the game that made it a two-point game and gave the win to the Kings.
The game appeared to be headed to overtime when James Anderson fouled Russell Westbrook as he went into the act of shooting from behind the 3-point line. Westbrook stepped to the line and converted all three free throws to tie the game at 112-112 before Gay was fouled and put the game on ice for Sacramento.
This was the 32nd win of the season for the Kings. Their home record for the season will be 18-23. The win also allowed the Kings to finish the season 2-2 versus the Thunder. Sacramento won once in Oklahoma City and once at home.
The player of the night for the Kings was guard Darren Collison. Collison was the team’s leading scorer with 27 points. He also dished out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds. Collison shot 10-for-16 from floor and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. He ran the point and found ways to score in his 36-minutes of playing time.
The other standout player for Sacramento was Seth Curry. Curry finished the game with 20 points and three assists. He lit up the night from beyond the 3-point line hitting on 6-of-10 chances. Curry’s shooting kept the Kings in the game early and allowed Sacramento to keep the game close.
George Karl gave the game ball to Collison and Curry.
Rudy Gay finished the game with 24 points. Gay was 9-for-19 shooting and was a dismal 1-for-6 from 3-point range. He was 5-for-7 from the free throw where he ultimately won the game for his team. Gay also led the Kings in playing time with almost 38 minutes.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Cousins had a frustrating night shooting finishing 7-for-24 from the field. The Kings big man played in foul trouble throughout most of the game. He picked up three personals in the first half and three more in the second half. Cousins fouled out the game with 3:26 left to play.
The Kings had additional scoring from Kosta Koufos (8), Quincy Acy (7), James Anderson (5), Willie Cauley-Stein (4) and Ben McLemore (4).
Sacramento shot 47.9-percent (45-for-94) from the field. They were an impressive 13-for-32 (40.6-percent) from behind the 3-point line. The Kings struggled from the free throw line converting only 11-of-20 (55.0-percent) from the stripe.The Kings took good care of the basketball committing just 11 turnovers while dishing out 22 assists to reach the goal of a 2-to-1 ratio.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder in scoring putting up 31 points. Durant distributed eight assists and had six rebounds in his game-high 39-minutes of playing time.
Russell Westbrook had a double-double game scoring 24 points and dishing out 10 assists. Westbrook had trouble taking care of the ball as he turned it over a game-high eight times.
Serge Ibaka added 14 points and Enes Kanter scored 11 points for OKC.
The Thunder shot 48.1-percent (39-for-81) from the floor and hit on 13-of-32 (40.6-percent) beyond the 3-point line. Turnovers were a problem for OKC as their committed 21 in the game.
Oklahoma City is now 54-26 on the season. Their road record falls to 23-17.
What they had to say after the game
“First thing I wrote in my notes is we’re playing a playoff team that will have a playoff atmosphere because of the historical event,” said Kings head coach George Karl. “I don’t think anyone was disappointed with what happened. The building had energy to it from the very beginning. It helped us. We rode the wave of the crowd and the energy.”
“Fans are incredible. Fans are first class, style, loyal, committed and next year they get a fantastic new building that hopefully will have more playoff games, rather than just regular season nice wins. Let’s have some playoff nice wins,” added Karl.
First class night
As an organization, the Kings have faced a great deal of criticism this season and much of it has been deserved. On Saturday night, the Kings proved they know how to produce a big event and pull it off with class and grace.
The Kings paid tribute to fans and the players of the past 28 years that have filled Sleep Train/ARCO Arena with emotion and excellence.
Reggie Theus, who scored the first two points in the arena, praised the Kings for the way they have reached out and included the players from the past in the celebration of basketball in Sacramento.
The Kings front office made it a night to remember for the fans attending the final game in Sleep Train/ARCO Arena. The team and the way they won made it night to never forget.