Two years ago, there was a lot of talk about the Oklahoma City Thunder being a model for the Kings on how to build a contender in a small market.
It helped that the Thunder nabbed a high-scoring MVP candidate in Kevin Durant, thanks to the NBA draft lottery, but shrewd moves by the front office and solid draft choices were things any team could do.
Friday night, the Thunder showed the Kings that they still have a ways to go to follow its example as Sacramento lost its second consecutive game, 103-92, at Power Balance Pavilion.
Kings coach Keith Smart's vision was to use the final month of the season as a test for his young team on what playoff basketball is like.
As the season wound down, the Kings were scheduled to play against several teams looking to improve their playoff position, including three games against the Thunder.
Unfortunately, the Kings have looked far from playoff-ready in April with a 2-9 record that has dropped them into a tie with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference.
Smart, however, remained optimistic about the effort against a team that is in contention to win the West.
"I was happy with (the Kings), the way they competed, the way they played," Smart said. "They made those guys work for some of their things that they got (Friday). I think that there were some defensive breakdowns at the wrong time of the game, but we're going to get better from that."
After the Kings jumped out to a 17-10 lead, the Thunder settled down and took control of the game with a 22-6 run and never trailed again.
That is the kind of poise the Kings (20-43) have yet to develop.
"As you can see, they don't get rattled. They run their stuff and they play hard," Kings forward-center Chuck Hayes said of the Thunder. "They're committed every play, and we've just got to get to that level."
Injuries haven't helped the Kings in April. Leading scorer Marcus Thornton missed his fifth game this month.
Thornton sat out four games with a bruised left calf and missed Friday's game with a left quad contusion. It's the same injury that cost him seven games in January, but the contusion is in a different part of Thornton's leg.
The Kings are 1-11 without Thornton this season.
But with or without Thornton, the Kings have struggled on defense this month and for most of the season.
The Thunder (46-17) shot 53.3 percent, becoming the fourth team in five games to shoot at least 50 percent against the Kings. The team that didn't was the Thunder on April 13 in Oklahoma City. That wasn't a factor as the Thunder won by 26.
The Kings shot 40.9 percent and allowed 20 points off 12 turnovers Friday night.
Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka had a lot to do with the Kings' shooting. He blocked eight shots and has 25 blocked shots in three games against the Kings.
Defensive breakdowns by Sacramento helped the Thunder's stars to have big games, led by Durant's 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
"Defense that's the most important thing," Tyreke Evans said about the gap between the Kings and elite teams.
Evans had 16 points and four assists.
"We've got to be a better defensive team. Good teams, they play good defense. We all know we can score on this team, but we've got to talk more on defense and help each other," Evans added.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 18 points and nine rebounds.