SACRAMENTO -- At 18-40, the Sacramento Kings have lost games in almost every fashion imaginable. Thursday night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder felt similar to many of the team's losses - fall behind early, claw back in, stumble down the stretch. But this one had a new twist.
OKC led by 23 after the first quarter, but the Kings fought back. After cutting the Thunder lead to seven at the half, Sacramento hit the Thunder with a 18-0 run in the late third quarter and early fourth and took a five-point lead with 10:01 remaining.
It looked like a heavyweight fight down the stretch with both teams hitting the each other with body blows. With the Thunder up two, Vince Carter hoisted a 3-point attempt with eight seconds remaining.
The shot came off the iron to Garrett Temple, who bricked. Rookie Justin Jackson flew in for a rebound and knocked down a six-footer on the run to tie the game at 107-107 with one second remaining on the clock.
Golden 1 Center went crazy. Overtime appeared imminent.
But one second is enough time to catch and shoot a ball in the NBA. That’s all it took for Russell Westbrook to rip the heart out of thousands of Kings fans.
With Carmelo Anthony manning the inbounds pass, the Thunder ran a double screen to free Westbrook. The reigning MVP caught the ball just to the right of center on the top of the key and drilled a 29-footer.
“Russell made a great shot,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “I just tried to get either him or Paul [George] some space on the play and he actually caught it funny at first from Carmelo. It looked like he rushed it trying to beat the clock.”
The shot came off Westbrook’s hand flat and looked like it might tear through the back of the net. After a very quick review by the officiating crew, the basket was deemed good.
Following the game, the Kings took the loss hard, as expected. Plenty of players had already cleared out of the locker room before media arrived, but a few stuck around to answer questions, including 17-year veteran, Zach Randolph.
“It’s really tough,” Randolph said following the 110-107 loss. “It was good D, better O. You know, give them credit. We fought. We’ve got to come out like that to start the game. It was a good game.”
Randolph led all scorers with 29 points and added 12 rebounds for Sacramento. He kept the Kings afloat until the rest of the team awoke from an early game slumber.
Sacramento received quality efforts from plenty of players, including Buddy Hield, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
In the end, the Thunder and their fleet of All-Stars won out. They hit the big shot when they needed it.
Give Sacramento credit. They shook off a miserable start, took a late lead against a playoff team and lost on a buzzer beater.