Sacramento’s red-hot 3-point shooting put the Kings in control of this one early on. As the Kings continued its sharp-shooting through all four quarters, the Thunder was unable to answer offensively after falling behind early.
As games wind down for the Thunder and valuable minutes on the floor dwindle, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault is using the opportunity to explore his roster and the players who haven’t had the opportunity to build the large body of work inside of an NBA game. As a result, the Thunder has seen major action from player such as two-way forward Jaylen Hoard who logged his second consecutive game in double figures while recording a career-high 16 points in 21 minutes of action.
“He continues to impress. We talk all the time about bringing a level of competitiveness and plugging into the team and he does that. He executes on both ends of the floor. There’s really nothing sexy but his game yet, but he competes every night, he plays inside of a team and he executes what we’re trying to do on both ends with a high level of reliability,” said Daigneault. “He’s strung together some good performances here when he’s gotten his opportunities.”
Hoard was a part of the Thunder’s early burst of offense as OKC sank four of its first seven attempts from deep and were firing at a 50-percent clip from the floor in the first frame. It was ball movement that fueled the Thunder’s offense. All eight of the Thunder’s first quarter baskets were assisted and it was Aleksej Pokuševski in his first game back from a knee contusion who got things started dishing out three early assists which led to the first eight points on the board for OKC. By halftime, the Thunder had dished out 14 assists on 18 made buckets.
“We’ve just got to move the ball well and with a purpose and try to make your teammates better. Put him in a closeout or find him an open shot,” said Pokuševski. “We’ve just got to keep doing that on a better level.”
The Kings’ offense also opened the game on a high note shoot 60 percent from the field to go alongside 50 percent from deep in the first half and continued its onslaught from behind the arc throughout the half. Hield cashed in on a pair of 3-pointers midway through the second frame as part of a 16-5 Kings run that boosted Sacramento’s advantage to 20 points going into halftime.
Thunder forward Darius Bazley, who led the Thunder in scoring with 18 points strung together multiple hard-earned plays at the basket which also earned him several trips to the free throw line. The performance marked the second-year forward’s 15th consecutive contest scoring in double figures.
The Kings’ early buckets translated to the second half where they erupted on a 20-6 run late in the third frame that took what was already a commanding lead and put it well out of reach. While the Thunder’s offense had cleaned up its miscues and continued its determined drives to the rim, it wouldn’t be able to slow down the sharp-shooting of Sacramento’s offense that got going from the very outset.
“I thought the biggest issue in that was our first half defense,” said Daigneault. “I just thought they gained some confidence, the Kings did, just because the game was coming a little bit easy to them. We we’re a bit a little too light on the ball, a little too light in our help and I didn’t think we had the competitive grit that we needed to have on that end of the floor to give ourselves a chance tonight.”
Coming into the Thunder’s matchup with the Kings, Coach Daigneault was intrigued to see how his large starting lineup of Pokuševski, Bazley, Isaiah Roby and Moses Brown would function offensively and create for one another. As the Kings continued to switch heavily on the defensive end, the 7-foot Brown found a way to take advantage under the rim. After a screen that switched a much smaller player onto him, Brown recognized the advantage he had immediately and worked to seal his positioning right under the rim.
On the catch, Brown elevated for a bucket while also taking on contact that resulted in a 3-point play the old fashioned way.
“Being able to seal him, get the ball and flush it is just playing to my advantages,” said Brown. “I think I’ve come a long way when it comes to my awareness of that.”
— Bally Sports Oklahoma (@BallySportsOK) May 10, 2021
It was the 3-point shooting of Sacramento that led to the Kings ability to take command of this game. Their 16 made triples at a 44.4 percent clip also helped to boost four different Kings players above 15 points and eight players total in double figures.
“At the end of the day, it’s about learning and no one likes to lose but we’re there for each other. We know what we’re trying to do and we’re just learning and trying to get better every game.”
“Games like this help us grow, especially a trip like this where we get to play them later in the week. We get to take what we’ve learned today and apply it to the next situation.”
The Thunder will have a day off in Sacramento to before tipping off against the Kings for the third time in eight days. From there, only two games remain for the Thunder who will then return to OKC to close out the season against the Jazz on Friday and the Clippers on Sunday.