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  • Hector Amezcua Kings forward John Salmons fights for position with Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison on Friday night. Salmons wasn't surprised by the Thunder's early rally.

  • Hector Amezcua Kings center DeMarcus Cousins reacts to a jump ball call against the Thunder. Cousins, who had 14 points and eight rebounds, can't explain why the Kings keep reverting to their bad habits on offense.

Kings blown out by another elite team

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 12:35 pm

There's a belief that the Kings play their most inspired basketball against the NBA's best teams.

It might be time to put that notion to rest for a while.

Another top team came to Sleep Train Arena, and the Kings were blown out again.

This time, it was the Oklahoma City Thunder that reminded the Kings how far they are from elite status with a 105-95 win Friday night.

The Thunder led by 25 in the second half before sitting most of the regulars for the fourth quarter.

The Kings led 23-9 with 5:09 to play in the first quarter. From that point on it was Oklahoma City's game. The Thunder took the lead 38-37 with 7:51 to go in the second quarter.

"Good teams are going to make a run, regardless if you're up 20," said Kings forward John Salmons.

The Kings briefly regained the lead, 43-42, with 4:59 left in the second quarter before Oklahoma City went in front and never trailed again.

While the Thunder exhibited crisp offense with solid passing (27 assists) and shooting (48.7 percent), the Kings did the opposite. They finished with 15 assists and shot just 41.9 percent (36 of 86).

The Kings also had 18 turnovers. It was second game in a row they had more turnovers than assists.

Why do the Kings keep falling back into bad habits on offense?

"I wish I had the answer," center DeMarcus Cousins said. "I believe if we had the answer, we wouldn't be going through this."

Poor offense is a big reason the Kings have struggled this season, and good teams exploit that.

Sacramento has only three wins against teams with winning records, beating Golden State twice and New York without Carmelo Anthony.

And the last few trips to Sleep Train by the NBA's best have been especially hard on the Kings, who have lost their last three games.

The Kings fell to Memphis by 32 on Jan. 7 and to Miami by 29 on Jan. 12.

Salmons said the Kings must break their habit of shooting after one or no passes and use teamwork to beat elite teams.

"If we want to go to the next level, we have to learn that we have to stay together and try not to go off on our own," Salmons said. "That's what happens when we play these good teams. They go on a run, and I feel like we panic as a group and everyone tries to do it individually."

The Thunder (34-10) was the Kings' last chance at a home win before a season-long six-game trip. Sacramento is 4-16 on the road.

The trip begins tonight against Denver, one of the better teams in the West. The Nuggets had Friday off and figure to be rested.

"(It's tough) with the altitude and all that stuff, but in this league every game is winnable," said forward Jason Thompson. "So obviously we'd have (had) confidence with a 'W' (against Oklahoma City), but we're coming in there trying to get a 'W.' "

Kings coach Keith Smart said: "You've got to play every game one at a time first. You can't play the whole road trip. … You never know what can happen. Something can come together."

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