Sue Ogrocki Associated Press The Kings' Isaiah Thomas shoots in front of the Thunder's Eric Maynor in the fourth quarter Friday night in Oklahoma City.

Reserves respond after starters are benched, but Kings fall to Thunder

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 - 7:59 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – With 6:03 left in the second quarter, coach Keith Smart had seen enough.

It's a lot of what he's seen this season in the Kings' losses, but this time he was angrier than usual and called a 20-second timeout to rip into his team.

"I just thought we looked terrible as a basketball team at that point," Smart said. "We weren't moving the ball. We were taking horrible shots and just looked absolutely bad."

Soon, Smart would sit all five of his starters and allow five backups to try and overcome a 24-point deficit (99-75) with 7:53 to play.

That group consisted of Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, Chuck Hayes and James Johnson.

The Thunder's lead was trimmed to 103-98 with 3:21 to play. But by then Oklahoma City had put its two All-Stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, along with defensive standout Serge Ibaka back in to thwart the comeback and beat Sacramento 113-103 Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Thomas didn't play in the first half but scored 23 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. The Sacramento-era record for points in a quarter is 25 by Mitch Richmond on Dec. 15, 1995, at Houston.

The Kings have lost three games in a row after their season-best three-game winning streak.

Smart said the Kings (7-15) continue to make the game hard on themselves with poor decision making.

"It's frustrating to see a team that has the ability, but not utilizing the ability by simply doing one thing we have to do," Smart said. "Move the basketball to the open person. And move it again if he doesn't have a shot. The game is so simple, but we complicate it sometimes."

The third quarter saw the Kings break off plays and settle for poor shots while the Thunder (19-4) used team basketball to build a big lead.

"We're not a good enough shooting team or individual persons to break a play and try and get a quick shot," Smart said.

"You've got to be a pretty decent shooter for that to happen. You have to look at the clock, know where you are on the scoreboard."

Smart got what he wanted from his reserves. "I thought those guys played and competed, and they moved the ball," Smart said.

Thomas' playing time has been inconsistent lately. Smart usually doesn't play anyone that doesn't play in the first half, but he turned to Thomas with the Kings in disarray.

"He was vocal, he got the team in position," Smart said. "He talked, things I knew he could do already. I thought he came in as a guy that hasn't played and took control of the team and managed the team."

Thomas said he had no idea he'd play in the second half.

"I got in and I just played," the second-year player said. "I was me. I was being me out there and being aggressive."

The game was the first back for center DeMarcus Cousins after being suspended for hitting Dallas guard O.J. Mayo in the groin during Monday's game.

Cousins said he's still trying to understand why he was disciplined by the league.

"I don't even feel like I'm doing anything wrong," Cousins said. "I'm just playing ball and I'm going to continue to do that."

Cousins said Kings management and the coaching staff have talked to him about the Mayo incident and the other incidents that have led to league fines and suspensions.

"They're just saying what everybody else is saying," Cousins said. "Coach has talked to me, but everyone else is giving me the same political answer."

That same political answer: "Stop giving them stuff to mess with you about or whatever," Cousins said.

Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie said the Kings are doing their best to support Cousins, who has been suspended twice by the league this season.

The NBA has even made retired players such as renowned big man Bob Lanier available to serve as a mentor to Cousins.

"We're really continuing to try and work with him and get him to grow past and understand all the things that get him into situations that are not healthy for him or the team," Petrie said. "Everyone continues to support him, but at the same time we're trying to get him to learn the boundaries."

Added Petrie: "We have people that are willing to work with him that are independent and private beyond our staff."

Cousins had 10 points (3-of-12 shooting) and seven rebounds against the Thunder.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS