Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

January 26, 2013

Big 3 lead surging Thunder past Kings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If the Oklahoma City Thunder never play in Sacramento again, they sure left quite a lasting memory.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin overcame a slow start, and Oklahoma City overwhelmed the Kings 105-95 on Friday night behind its star trio.

Durant had 24 points and 11 rebounds, Martin scored 24 and Westbrook added 18 points and a season-high 14 assists to anchor a 28-10 run to start the third quarter. The spurt helped the Thunder go ahead by 25 points and improve to 3-2 on their season-long six-game road trip, which ends Sunday at the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Maybe one of our better quarters of the year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

With the Kings’ pending purchase agreement to a group that wants to relocate the team to Seattle, there’s no guarantee the Thunder — coincidentally the former SuperSonics, who moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008 — will be back in California’s capital city next season.

An announced crowd of 15,022 showed up to root for the Kings and catch a glimpse of the Thunder, who have won eight of 10 to climb to the top of the NBA standings. Durant, who played his rookie season in Seattle, said he hopes the situation works out well for both West Coast cities.

Not that the Thunder showed any mercy to the Kings on the court.

Oklahoma City outshot Sacramento 48 to 41 percent, won the rebounding battle 47-39 and dished out 27 assists. The Kings had only one more assist than Westbrook, who had what Brooks called “one of his best overall games,” especially considering the point guard shot 3 of 16 from the floor in a loss at Golden State on Wednesday night.

“We were passing up good shots to take great shots,” Durant said.

Tyreke Evans scored 16 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 14 points and eight rebounds on a difficult shooting night for the Kings, who have lost three straight and four of five. Cousins finished 6 of 16 from the floor and had seven of Sacramento’s 18 turnovers.

“It’s frustrating,” Cousins said. “I’m going to keep my mouth closed and stay positive.”

The worse news for the franchise still remains off the court.

The Maloof family has a signed agreement to sell the Kings to a group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who intend to move the franchise to Seattle and restore the SuperSonics name next season. The NBA Board of Governors must still approve the sale.

Ironically, Thunder owner Clay Bennett is the head of the league’s relocation committee now.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who sat courtside, is mounting a counteroffer to try to block the move. Fans still keep coming to games at the outdated arena, though outside of a few “Save Our Kings” signs and others supporting Johnson’s efforts, the focus surprisingly stayed on watching the defending Western Conference champions.

With a rowdier home crowd than in recent weeks since the sale surfaced, Sacramento stunned the Thunder at the start. Evans made a 3-pointer and Cousins followed with a dunk to cap a 23-9 run to open the game.

Once Oklahoma City found its stride, the Kings couldn’t keep pace.

Durant, Westbrook and Martin, who played for the Kings from 2004-10, eventually mowed down Sacramento on both ends of the floor. The trio helped the Thunder shoot 52 percent from the floor in the first half, with Westbrook taking an outlet pass from Durant for an uncontested dunk in the final seconds to go ahead 58-51 at the break.

About the loudest noise the Kings made in the second half came from the sideline.

Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas was called for a technical foul for barking out something from the bench in the third quarter. Both teams were given a warning to stop the back-and-forth chatter at each other and the officials.

The Thunder’s leading men quieted the Kings with near-flawless basketball. Serge Ibaka shut down Cousins, Westbrook orchestrated the offense and Durant often finished in spectacular fashion during the 28-10 spurt to start the second half that gave Oklahoma City an 86-61 lead and put the game away.

“That’s what got us to the top of the West right now,” Westbrook said. “That’s what got us to the record we have now.”

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Poll

Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
Undecided.
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