The Oklahoma City Thunder’s (38-21) latest comeback fell just short on Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, losing by a final score of 116-119 to the Sacramento Kings (31-28). Coming off a double-overtime classic against the Jazz on Friday, the Thunder put forth an admirable effort on short rest as Paul George’s three-point attempt to send the game into overtime on the final possession didn’t drop. Russell Westbrook recorded his third straight game with more than 40 points, leading the Thunder with 41 points and 10 rebounds on 15-of-30 shooting. Buddy Hield reigned supreme for the visiting Kings, scoring 34 points in a masterful performance in the state he used to call home.
The Thunder looked a little sluggish to start, which was to be expected after playing a double-overtime thriller less than 24 hours ago. OKC turned the ball over six times in the opening frame, resulting in eight points for the Kings. Hield was his usual thorn in the Thunder’s side in the first, scoring 14 straight Sacramento points midway through the quarter to put the Kings up 31-24 after one.
Sacramento kept the foot on the gas in the second, taking advantage of the Thunder’s shortcomings on both ends of the floor. De’Aaron Fox had his way with the Thunder defense, easily penetrating the paint and creating offense for others with six assists in the first half. The Thunder offense was abysmal, shooting a woeful 35.8 percent from the field, 5-of-23 from distance, and 6-of-11 from the charity stripe. After making his first three shots, Paul George went on to miss his final seven of the first half, finishing 3-of-10 from the field. Russell Westbrook continued his offensive resurgence in the first half, leading the Thunder as their lone bright spot with 18 points (7/14 FG, 2/5 3P, 2/3 FT). The Kings led 63-49 at the break.
It should come to no one’s surprise as to who the Thunder looked to for a source of energy to bring them back into the game. Westbrook’s steady diet of attacking the paint brought the Thunder to within seven in the third, but it was his relentless effort on the defensive end that provided the necessary spark for the Thunder. In what appeared to be an easy transition layup for Hield, Westbrook came out of nowhere and recorded the block, leading to a Terrance Ferguson three in transition. A three from George on the next trip down, as well as another Ferguson three a few possessions later, capped an 18-6 Thunder run to start the third, bringing OKC to within two points at the 7:29 mark. Unfortunately for OKC, the offense went quiet as Sacramento responded with a 21-7 run over the next six minutes after Hield’s three-pointer put the Kings up 16 with 2:33 to go in the third. The Thunder deficit was 11 heading into the fourth.
Dennis Schroder brought the Thunder to within five with just under nine minutes to go in the final frame, but Sacramento quickly pushed their advantage back to 11 at the 7:23 mark after back-to-back and-ones by Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. OKC answered with a Markieff Morris three-pointer, three free throws by Westbrook, and Nerlens Noel provided the punctuation on an 8-0 run after his block led to a transition layup for Westbrook, bringing the Thunder to within three with 6:26 remaining.
After exchanging buckets, the Thunder went ahead by one when Sacramento committed a goaltend on Westbrook’s layup attempt with just over five minutes left. The teams went on to exchange the lead over the next few minutes before Fox’s and-one put the Kings up 116-111 at the 2:31 mark. A pair of George free throws brought the Thunder back within a one-possession game. After a clean look from deep by Westbrook didn’t fall, he didn’t hesitate when another open three presented itself on the next trip down, tying the game at 116-116 with 59.8 seconds on the clock.
Jerami Grant stole the ball on the Kings’ following possession, but a Westbrook elbow jumper off the lass didn’t drop. Fox then drew the foul and his free-throws put the Kings up two with 29.3 seconds left. Grant missed a corner three on OKC’s next trip, but the Thunder secured the offensive rebound with another chance to tie or take the lead in the closing seconds. Westbrook received the pass and attacked the paint, making the layup with 11.5 seconds left as the referee blew the whistle. However, Westbrook was called for the charge, giving the Kings the ball back with a two-point lead and time on their side.
Harrison Barnes split a pair of free-throws with 4.2 seconds remaining, giving the Thunder one last chance to tie it with a three. After struggling to get the ball inbounds, George received the pass and heaved a turnaround three-pointer that clanked off the front of the rim — securing the victory for the young Kings squad.
Don’t Call It A Comeback: The Brodie has been the recipient of mixed reviews this season, largely in part to his inefficient shooting. With tonight’s 41-point performance on 50 percent shooting, that makes three 40-point games in a row for Westbrook. The Thunder needed every bit of Westbrook’s contagious energy tonight, as the groggy team was dragging for most of the game. In total, Westbrook recorded 41 points (15/30 FG, 5/12 3P, 6/8 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists, seven turnovers, a steal, and a block.
MVP Hangover: If there’s anyone that was allowed an off-game, it’s George. Despite making his first three shot attempts, PG shot 1-of-16 from that point forward — but was able to keep his streak of at least two 3-pointers intact, reaching 38 games (second-longest streak of all-time). He’ll look to bounce back in a big way on Tuesday in Denver. He didn’t have it tonight.
Never Say Die: You have to commend the Thunder for their effort, stringing together yet another comeback after facing a double-digit deficit for a majority of the game. No one would’ve batted an eye had OKC simply mailed it in once the Kings saw their lead balloon to 16 points in the final minutes of the third, but the Thunder simply wouldn’t allow it. There are a handful of “scheduled losses” throughout the course of an 82-game season, but the Thunder impressed with their resolve in this one.
Shooting With Heavy Legs: The Thunder shooters were in a bit of a funk coming off their double-overtime victory on Friday night. Midway through the second quarter, the Thunder were 3-of-17 from three-point range, a far cry from the clip they’ve been shooting over the past month and a half. OKC picked it up in the second half, going 9-of-23 (39.1 percent), but the combined halves results in a 14-of-46 (30.4%) clip.
Boomer Buddy: What else is new? Hield loves showing out for his Boomer Sooner fanatics and tonight was no different. Hield was Sacramento’s primary source of offense, leading the Kings with 34 points (12/22 FG, 3/5 3P, 7/9 FT), five rebounds, four assists, a steal, and a block. He’s quickly turning into one of the league’s up-and-coming stars.