Kings

Kings fall to Thunder despite fourth quarter surge

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Kings fall to Thunder despite fourth quarter surge

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There was no coasting to a 10-game winning streak for Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Up by 24 in the fourth quarter, it looked as if Durant and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook were going to rest for most of the final period.

The Sacramento Kings had another idea, forcing Oklahoma City to make one more push.

Durant scored 31 points, Serge Ibaka added 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Thunder's starters had to make a late appearance to hold off the Kings for a 113-103 victory on Friday night.

It's the franchise's longest winning streak since November 1996, when it won 11 in a row as the Seattle SuperSonics.

"It's good. We're 19-4 and we just want to look at the bigger picture instead of winning streaks," said sixth man Kevin Martin, who had 18 points. "We're a pretty talented team, so we're just taking baby steps and getting better every day."

Sacramento closed to 103-98 thanks to Isaiah Thomas, who scored all 26 of his points in the final 13 1/2 minutes. He had four 3-pointers, a layup and a jumper during a 23-4 comeback attempt by the Kings.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks had already emptied his bench, but ended up calling timeout with 4:17 remaining to put his starters back in.

"It was just a little frustration that they came back because I thought we were playing so well," Durant said. "You have tough stretches like that. I was just more frustrated that we gave up the lead."

Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka got the call to come back after Sacramento had cut the deficit to 10. Durant missed his first shot and Westbrook didn't even catch the rim on his first attempt, with Thomas running right through the defense for a layup in between.

Jimmer Fredette's three free throws with 3:21 left made it 103-98, but that's as close as it got. Fredette couldn't connect on a 3-pointer or a drive to the basket, and Thomas also missed a 3 as Oklahoma City regained its footing.

Durant recovered the ball after getting stripped and dropped in a layup before back-to-back Ibaka baskets extended the lead to 109-98.

"We made it tough, but Scottie has that luxury over there to call the big dogs back into the game," Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "I thought our guys played and competed."

Durant wrote "Newtown, CT" on both of his shoes as a reference to the deadly school shooting in Connecticut earlier in the day. The three-time NBA scoring champion said it hit him particularly hard because he has a goddaughter who just started kindergarten and cousins in the first and second grades.

A moment of silence was held during the pregame prayer.

"I've got family members that young. Just to see kids that really couldn't do nothing for themselves, couldn't protect themselves and for their lives to be taken away and for their parents to go through stuff like that, that's the least I could do," Durant said.

"I wish I could do more. But it hit me really hard. It's tough to see, especially kids that couldn't do anything for themselves. Words can't even describe it. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now."

Tyreke Evans had 21 points and Jason Thompson finished with 15 for Sacramento, which was outrebounded 43-29.

Westbrook had 13 points and 13 assists for Oklahoma City.

After falling behind by 20 late in the first half, the Kings scored the first seven points in the third quarter and a couple minutes later cut the deficit to 65-55 following back-to-back 3-pointers by Aaron Brooks and John Salmons.

The margin was 12 when Smart called a timeout to prevent DeMarcus Cousins from attempting to take the ball coast to coast, then ripped into his players. Whatever he said didn't seem to provide much inspiration. The Thunder restored their 20-point cushion on Martin's two free throws with 9:46 remaining.

"There was a little arguing here and there, but it happens on every team," Thomas said. "Through the toughest times, you've got to know that the guy next to you is going to be all you've got and we've got to learn that."

Martin's layup pushed the lead to 99-75 just after seldom-used reserve Reggie Jackson entered for Oklahoma City. DeAndre Liggins, who plays even less, came in shortly thereafter.

The starters weren't quite done yet, and Durant said part of the blame for the comeback should fall on them.

"I'd date that back to the stat of the third. The starters have got to do a better job of coming out with more energy the first 5 minutes. Then maybe that wouldn't have happened in the fourth," Durant said. "We gave them a little bit of confidence going into that fourth. We just have to be better, and I think we will."

Martin had bookend 3-pointers in a 22-4 surge that put Oklahoma City firmly in control in the second quarter. Ibaka and Durant both had two-handed dunks during the run, and Durant also converted a 3-pointer and two free throws.

The Kings went 2 for 9 and committed four turnovers during the stretch before Kendrick Perkins delivered a firm screen to get Martin open for his 3-pointer to make it 56-36 with 2:37 left in the first half.

Sacramento led for just 39 seconds in the game, following a three-point play by Evans late in the first quarter. Martin hit a pair of free throws two possessions later to start a string of seven straight Thunder points, and Oklahoma City didn't trail again.

NOTES: Reserve guard Marcus Thornton was not with Sacramento for a second straight game for personal reasons. ... The Kings are the only Western Conference team that hasn't beaten the Thunder in Oklahoma City. ... Center Daniel Orton and guard Jeremy Lamb were assigned to Oklahoma City's NBA Development League affiliate in Tulsa before the game.

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

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AP

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

Rinse and repeat. After shocking the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings hopped on a plane where they’ll face the same team on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back.

Dave Joerger shook up his lineup on Friday, installing De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings responded with their best defensive effort of the season. Cauley-Stein went off for 22 points and 10 rebounds with the second unit and his defensive effort was next level.

The Blazers have become a two-man wrecking crew. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum score the bulk of the team’s points on a nightly basis, but coach Terry Stotts is still searching someone who is ready to step up and help. Jusuf Nurkic is part of the puzzle, but the Blazers need more consistency from the other 12 players on the roster.

BETTING LINE:
Blazers by 12

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
De’Aaron Fox vs. Damian Lillard -- Fox put on a defensive show against Portland at Golden 1 Center. The rookie came into the league with high-end potential as a two-way player and he showed it against Lillard, holding the All-Star point guard to 29 points, but on 9-of-25 shooting. Lillard loves to hoist up shots. If Fox can't provide the same pressure, the Kings will struggle to keep up with the Blazers.

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 4-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-7, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) out, F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Trail Blazers: F Al Farouq Aminu (ankle) out, G C.J. Wilcox (knee) out, PG Wade Baldwin (thumb) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
CONSISTENCY -- You can’t show flashes of brilliance and then take a step back. The Kings defensive effort and overall intensity won the game on Friday night. It’s a place to build from.

FINDING A ROLE -- Joerger shook up everything when he turned to Fox and Labissiere. Offensively, both players struggled, as did Bogdanovic off the bench. This group of young players needs to find a role and figure out a way to help the team, even when the shots aren’t falling.

GET DEFENSIVE -- Portland didn’t know what hit them Friday evening, but they’ll have a few hours to make adjustments. Sacramento’s bigs showed on every high screen and roll. The guard and wing play was aggressive and spot on. The Kings are young and energetic. If they can focus that energy on the defensive end night in and night out, they might have a chance to build something.

SERIES HISTORY:
Sacramento leads the season series 1-0 after Friday night’s win. The Blazers lead the all-time series 129-78 and they own the Kings during the Sacramento-era 88-47.

QUOTE:
"Whether you think the sky is falling or not, we are 3-3 in our last 6 games." - Dave Joerger

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

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USATSI

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with demotion, you have two options, sulk or come out swinging. Willie Cauley-Stein chose option two Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.

After starting all 14 games to begin the season, Cauley-Stein found himself relegated to the second unit against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 7-footer looked energized by the move and made one play after another as the Kings came away with the 86-82 victory.

“I felt free - period,” Cauley-Stein said following the win. “Both offensively, defensively. I’m quarterbacking on defense. I’m getting to make plays on offense. I just feel liberated. I feel like it’s unlocking.”

The third-year big began the 2017-18 campaign with back-to-back double-doubles, but hadn’t notched double-figures in rebounds since. Over his previous eight games, the Kings’ starting center was averaging just 4.3 boards per game.

Against Portland, Cauley-Stein played sparkling defense, hit 9-of-17 from the floor for a team-high 22 points and hit the glass for 10 boards. He skied above the Blazers bigs for a rebound with 3.4 seconds remaining and his second free throw attempt sealed the win for a Kings team in desperate need of a win.

“Willie’s a hell of a player, obviously,” veteran big Kosta Koufos said. “He’s really athletic, he’s a special talent.”

Koufos and Cauley-Stein made a devastating defensive duo for Sacramento. Both bigs showed on the high pick-and-roll and avoided fouling the Blazers high-powered guards.

“That’s a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been waiting for that lineup since we started.”

Damian Lillard scored 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field and 5-for-14 from long range. C.J. McCollum knocked down 8-of-15 from the floor, but he missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Sacramento closed out and pressured the shooter all night long.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only starter to find himself on the bench to start the game. Dave Joerger turned to a dual point guard backcourt, using De’Aaron Fox and George Hill side-by-side, while bringing rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic in with the second unit.

Playing off the ball for long stretches, Hill responded to the move with 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Fox had a quiet offensive night, but his defense on both Lillard and McCollum was inspired.

“We can both attack and he’s a great shooter so that really helps me,” Fox said of Hill. “He’s a mentor on the court. It’s a lot easier to play with him then to watch him play.”

Sacramento held Portland to just 37 percent shooting overall and 28 percent from behind the arc. They pressured the Blazers in the backcourt and slowed the game to screeching halt.

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-11 on the season. They jumped a plane for Portland following the game where they’ll face the same Trail Blazer team Saturday in a rare back-to-back against the same team.

The Kings likely be without the services of shooting guard Buddy Hield, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Hield limped into the locker room on crutches following the victory and the initial indications point to him missing the rematch.