The Thunder shot at a season high clip from the field to open the game and posted 65 first-half points. However, the fiery offensive start for the Thunder cooled off in the second half as Sacramento took the reins in the final matchup between these two teams this season.
In the Thunder’s third and final swing against Sacramento, it would be tested with operation its offense without a true point guard on the floor as both Ty Jerome (calf strain) and Théo Maledon (plantar fasciitis) sat out in the Thunder’s final road trip of the season.
Much of the ball handling responsibility fell to Kenrich Williams who stepped into his 13th start of the season after not playing in the Thunder’s last game against Sacramento and logged 10 points in the first quarter on the way to a team-high 20 points in the game and a season-high four made 3-pointers. It wasn’t just the offensive side of the ball that the fourth-year wing provided in Tuesday’s game. Kenny Hustle seemed to be all over the floor for OKC as he also logged four steals and two blocks in his 30 minutes of game action.
“You’ve gotta give him credit. He keeps himself ready,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “It doesn’t matter what role you put him in, what position, when you’re playing him in the game, he finished the game just as hard as he started it. He’s a pro’s pro.”
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The Thunder shot at a season high 62-percent clip in the first half and received contributions all over the floor from players like Tony Bradley who logged 10 points off the bench as well as Charlie Brown Jr. who added seven points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.
“We started out really well coming off [Sunday’s game],” said Roby. “Coming out, not having any point guards in the lineup, I think we did a really good job of sharing the ball, getting a lot of assists and taking care of the ball.”
After a furious offensive start for the Thunder to post 65 points in the first half, the second half belonged almost entirely to Sacramento. The Thunder’s 3-point lead at halftime was erased as Sacramento posted a lopsided third behind a strong performance from the 3-point line. In the third quarter alone, the Kings put up 40 points while shooting at a 60-percent clip from the field and going 7-for-11 from the 3-point line.
Unable to answer offensively, the Thunder fell behind by its largest deficit of the night in the third frame and even a small surge of offense in the fourth quarter wouldn’t be enough to close the large gap that the Kings had built.
“Third quarter give them credit, they came out and popped us pretty good,” said Daigneault. “They played with more aggressiveness and it just took us too long to kind of get the car back on the road. We couldn’t really stabilize the game there after a couple different attempts to do it.”
In the third quarter as the Kings surged ahead on a 12-4 run, Kenrich Williams and Darius Bazley. The Thunder’s two highest scorers on the night connected for a much-needed, energizing bucket to reignite some momentum in its direction.
As Williams attacked the lane, he drew the attention of multiple Kings’ defenders which opened up the baseline for Bazley to cut behind for a two-handed slam. The bucket accounted for two of Bazley’s 18 hard-earned points on the night. The second year forward showed incredible aggressiveness to get to the rim and generate offense and by the end of the night, racked up 12 free throw attempts.
“He’s definitely been more aggressive. He’s jumping into contact and that’s big for Baze,” said Williams. “I feel like bass can get to the line a lot of times in the game just off his aggressiveness. For Baze, to get to the line, that’ll get his offensive game going.”
With the two 3-pointers tonight from rookie Aleksej Pokuševski, the Thunder’s rookie class set a new record for combined 3-pointers made in a season. Pokuševski, Théo Maledon, Josh Hall and Gabriel Deck have combined for 158 triples throughout the season.
“Just playing together offensively. Defensively we’re competing. In the third it kind of kind of slipped away from this a little bit. They hit some shots in the third. We turned the ball over a few times in the third but overall just proud of the way we competed.”
“Overall a lot of good possessions. A lot of good stretches. I thought our effort tonight was really, really good to start the game and to finish. The third quarter was obviously the difference in the game.”
With the final road game not under its belt, the Thunder will have two days between games before closing out the season on its home floor. On Friday, the Thunder will host the Utah Jazz before welcoming the Clippers on Sunday for the final game of the season.