The Oklahoma City Thunder entered a Wednesday night matchup against the Sacramento Kings with little to no energy, efficiency, and execution.
The Kings took advantage of early mistakes by the Thunder, whose turnover total of 24 opened the door for the 21-point Sacramento victory.
Russell Westbrook, whose hyperactive offensive approach has made him one of the league’s most dangerous players this season, struggled throughout the game and made just 3-of-19 shots. It was one of his worst performances of the season considering his reputation for performing exceptionally well against Western Conference teams.
Sacramento put Oklahoma City into foul trouble early and often, as they entered the bonus in the first period. It would not stop there, as DeMarcus Cousins made it a priority to get opposing big men into fouling situations. He put himself onto the free-throw line 13 times, making 11 of his attempts.
The Thunder were unable to create any form of consistent efficiency in the game, shooting only 32.6 percent from the field throughout the contest.
“The way we played defense in this game was great, especially in the second half holding them to 23 percent, 14 points in that third quarter,” said Tyrone Corbin. “I thought our defense was really good and things we talked about in practice transferred to the full game.
Unlike most of the Thunder’s players, Darren Collison had one of his most effective offensive games in a Kings uniform. He set a new career-high in three-pointers with five from long-range, and his 24 points propelled the offense that would ultimately end any attempt at a Thunder victory. He also had seven assists and shot 47.4 percent from the field.
Sacramento managed to limit thier turnovers to just 16, a rather impressive mark considering how many losses have come about as a result of poor ball protection in the 2014-15 season. The only source of offensive strife for the Kings came as a result of Serge Ibaka‘s defense, which hounded even Cousins inside and gave him trouble— to an extent.
“[Cousins] had to keep himself level-headed… I thought he got hit a couple of times but we had 22 free throws to their six so it was fair, I would assume,” said Corbin.
Ibaka finished with an obscene eight blocks on the night. He also contributed 11 points and 15 rebounds. His performance was Oklahoma City’s primary bright spot, as he has put himself one step closer to being considered the league’s premier shot blocker and paint-protecting power forward.
Rudy Gay matched up well against Kevin Durant‘s lanky defensive frame, as he scored 28 points on contested shots off the dribble. His shot selection was considerably better than usual, though, as his three-point makes were open and most of his looks from the field weren’t especially difficult.
Gay finished with nine rebounds and a steal, and shot 47.4 percent for the game.
Sacramento was able to start off the five-game homestand with one of the league’s best teams and halted the slew of losses it had previously been experiencing.
“I can’t say enough about the guys’ effort. It was great to see our defense working the way they did in the second half,” said Corbin.