By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Before his Sacramento Kings took the floor against Oklahoma City Sunday, coach Mike Malone made a bold statement. He said his team would not allow Thunder forward Kevin Durant to reach 54 points as he did in his previous outing.
It turns out Durant didn’t need to go on a scoring tear again. He just needed to control the game as the Thunder defeated the Kings 108-93 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I just tried to be aggressive and put pressure on the rim and the defense,” Durant said. “When we move the ball like that, everybody is touching it, everybody is feeling good, it helps our defense as well.”
After sitting out most of the fourth quarter, Durant re-entered the game with Oklahoma City (31-10) leading 102-89 and 3:25 left in the game. The Kings tried to employ the Hack-a-Perk, fouling Thunder center Kendrick Perkins each time down the floor.
But Sacramento was not able to take advantage on the offensive end.
The Kings (14-25) ended up fouling Durant with 2:11 left in the game. He hit both free throws, which extended his streak of scoring at least 30 points to seven games. He has 121 points in his last three games.
“I said he wasn’t going to get 54 tonight , right,” Malone jokingly said of Durant. “That’s a silver lining right there.”
Along with his scoring, Durant added nine assists and six rebounds. Forward Serge Ibaka added 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting.
Kings guard Isaiah Thomas did his best to keep his team competitive. He scored a season-high 38 points to go along with six assists. Center DeMarcus Cousins added 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Thunder forced the Kings into 20 turnovers, which they turned into 34 points.
“We talked about being defensive-minded with our hands and our feet,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “We had 10 steals in the first half and then ended up with 13 for the game. I liked our activity.”
In the past month, Perkins has been determined to become an offensive threat for the Thunder. No matter how many shots or layups he has missed, he continues to call for the ball in the post.
Even though Perkins was not making shots, he did keep defenders occupied as Durant continued to work his magic. He posted 13 points in the first quarter.
However, Thomas had it going early and torched the Oklahoma City backcourt and helped the Kings take a 30-28 first-quarter lead.
As Thomas continued to make shots in the second period, Durant yelled from the bench at guard Reggie Jackson to “take the challenge” of stopping Thomas. It did not help much as Thomas finished the first half with 27 points.
“I was just aggressive,” Thomas said. “I hit a couple of my first shots and I just stayed aggressive. I could have been a little more aggressive in the second half. It is what it is.”
The combination of Durant and Ibaka was enough to offset Thomas’ first-half explosion as they combined for 31 points. Durant also showed his playmaking side late in the second quarter when he crossed halfcourt on a fastbreak and tossed an alley-oop pass to Ibaka, who threw it down with ease. Oklahoma City led 57-52 at halftime.
After a quick run to start the third quarter, the Kings tied the game at 60-60. From that point on, Oklahoma City outscored Sacramento 29-14 the rest of the quarter. That included Durant draining a pair of 3-pointers over guard Ben McLemore and forward Derrick Williams to give the Thunder a 89-74 lead.
“This team does a great job of turning you over,” Malone said. “But more importantly, converting. The one thing we always try to show is resiliency to making mistakes. We just to do a better job of valuing the ball.”
Notes: The NBA fined Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone $25,000 for verbal abuse of officials and not proceeding directly to the locker room after the game Friday at Memphis. The Kings lost the game 91-90. Heading into the matchup with the Kings, Oklahoma City Forward Kevin Durant had been on a scoring binge. His 435 points in the previous 12 games is the seventh most this decade. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant leads the way with 531 points during the 2005-06 season. ... In 10 attempts, the Kings are 0-10 against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. ... Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has been very impressed with Isaiah Thomas since becoming a starter. “Isaiah is as quick as they come,” Brooks said. “He’s offensive minded and has a big heart. I don’t think he realizes he’s only 5-foot-9.
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