In the first quarter of the first game of Kevin Durant’s absence, OKC looked remarkably efficient, loose. However, when the newly Cam Payne-led second unit came out on the floor, the Kings surged ahead to an eight point lead.
And from that point on, the Kings held on to win their first ever game in Oklahoma City. They held the Thunder to a paltry 35% field goal shooting in the second half.
Another milestone for George Karl and the Kings: Karl is now fifth in all-time wins in the NBA.
It was the gritty, gutty play of sometimes inconsistent but hugely talented center DeMarcus Cousins that propelled the Kings to a 116-104 victory in Oklahoma City.
Cousins scored 33 points in 38 minutes of play. He also added 19 rebounds and two blocks. Cousins, like many other Kings players, got to the foul line early and often, and converted once they were there.
Russell Westbrook struggled in the absence of Durant. His shooting was abysmal, going 6-23 and just 2-9 behind the three-point line. He turned the ball over a whopping seven times.
Russ did impact the game in other ways: he had 15 assists and eight boards. No matter which way you cut it though, the fact remains: Westbrook struggled, and with Star #1 out for at least a few games, that kind of play isn’t conducive to winning.
Serge Ibaka had a nice night, scoring 25, grabbing seven rebounds, and turning away five shots. Anthony Morrow had a season-high 20 points. Steven Adams and Cameron Payne also chipped in double-digit scoring efforts.
Despite the efforts from the role players, this game was a healthy reminder: stars win basketball games. Systems, schemes, philosophies, and intentions can overcome adversity sometimes, sure. But the fact remains: stars win games. OKC needs their stars to be successful in a league that is deeper than ever.
The Thunder fall to 24-11, while the Kings improve to 14-20. Next up for OKC: tomorrow night against the Memphis Grizzlies at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tipoff at 8:30.