SACRAMENTO, Cali. — This game mirrored the loss a month ago in Oklahoma City.
Tonight was Russell Westbrook’s first game back since a sprained ankle kept him out the last six games. Last month’s game with the Kings was also Westbrook’s first game of the season.
Iman Shumpert scored all 23 of his points tonight — his second highest scoring output of the season — in the first two quarters. Last month, Shumpert dropped 26 points — his season high.
Tonight the Oklahoma City Thunder (10-6) lost 117-113. Last month it was 131-120 Sacramento Kings (9-8).
A 37-point explosion by the Kings to begin the game tonight set the tone. A strong defensive adjustment by the Thunder saw the 19 point lead evaporate. Then a 7-0 King start to the fourth quarter spelled doom for the Thunder’s three game winning streak.
“We were fully aware of how they were playing,” Billy Donovan said afterwards. “We gave up way too many threes. for us tonight we made a great effort to get back in to the game but what broke our backs were those kick out threes.”
The Kings set the tone early. Oklahoma City desperately mirrored the pace of Sacramento to their detriment. Careless turnovers. Bad fouls. Leaving guys like Shumpert and Buddy Hield wide open. Poor shot choices. All of these can be attributed to the loss.
Despite the first quarter which saw the Thunder down by 13, Oklahoma City adjusted.
The Thunder outscored the Kings 89-80 the rest of the way. They even took a one point lead into the fourth quarter which quickly went away after a Sacramento 7-0 run. From there it became a back and forth affair that the home team wanted.
In Westbrook’s first game back, the All-Star had 29 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. His 12-of-25 performance from the floor was magnified by an abysmal 4-of-10 three point shooting.
Westbrook’s 1-for-5 shooting from three in the first two quarters signified one of the flaws Oklahoma City can fix in order to become the team many think they can be. As the Kings dictated the flow of the game early on, Westbrook took the bait and shot the Thunder out of contention early on. To his credit, he adjusted and got others involved as the game progressed.
Making his second start due to Terrance Ferguson’s absence, Hamidou Diallo had perhaps his best game of his rookie campaign. He became the first Thunder rookie to shoot a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, finishing with 18 points and two points.
Diallo’s game overshadowed how poorly he began the game. Shumpert’s primary defender was Diallo starting out until Paul George was switched on to him. Like Westbrook, Diallo settled into the game and helped the Thunder get back into the ball game.
There was a 10-second span that saw Diallo knock down one of his two three pointers only to turn around and steal the ball and outrun De’Aaron Fox for the breakaway dunk. This along with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot’s 11 points helped the Thunder come back and give themselves a chance.
Late in the fourth, the Oklahoma Sooner portion of the Thunder fanbase was treated to some Buddy Hield flashbacks.
The former Sooner guard scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. This included a stretch where he hit three consecutive threes.
The Thunder remain on the road until Wednesday night when they take on the Golden State Warriors.