Kings rally behind Thomas but lose to Thunder

It was a devastating way to lose for Isaiah Thomas.

A 14-foot jumper that would have forced overtime fell short, and Thomas was disgusted with himself. Never mind the 21 points he scored in the fourth quarter; Thomas was upset with the two he didn’t get in the Kings’ 97-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.

Thomas, who finished with 24 points, took off his headband and flung it toward the opposite basket when Kings coach Michael Malone grabbed him and gave him a big hug.

“I told (Malone), ‘My bad,’” Thomas said. “But he told me don’t ever say, ‘My bad. Without you, we wouldn’t be in this game.’ I’m competitive, and I feel like I let my team down by not making the shot. I got the shot I wanted; I got separation. It just fell short.”

With that miss, the Kings (4-12) were unable to force overtime and lost their fifth game in a row.

The Kings played without center DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his first game of the season after spraining his right ankle in Sunday’s loss to Golden State. He is expected back for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Chuck Hayes started for Cousins.

Not having Cousins left the Kings without their leader in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocked shots and their best counter to Oklahoma City’s duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

After the Kings fell behind by 17 points in the fourth quarter, Thomas, Sacramento’s second-leading scorer, got rolling when he started playing like himself.

Thomas opened the season scoring in double figures in 12 consecutive games, a Sacramento record for players coming off the bench to start a season.

Thomas then totaled 14 points in his next two games before scoring 19 in the loss to the Warriors.

On Tuesday, Thomas admittedly came out passive on both ends of the floor in the first half and was quickly pulled from the game.

“I was over-thinking sometimes, but (Tuesday), he took me out just because of that. That’s why I didn’t play a lot, “ Thomas said. “After the game, he said, ‘Be you; don’t be nobody else. We need you to be highly aggressive. You’re a scoring guard; we need you to do that. When you do that, it gives us a better chance of winning.’”

Malone said after the game that when Thomas is aggressive, the Kings take on his personality. And the Kings needed that after blowing a 12-point lead after the first quarter to fall behind big.

The Kings have been prone to dry spells on offense this season. Tuesday’s drought covered two quarters and left them down by 17 in the fourth quarter. That’s a familiar spot for the Kings, who have trailed by double digits in 12 games this season.

After scoring 31 points in the first quarter, the Kings managed 34 points over the second and third quarters.

Thomas started attacking in the fourth quarter to begin the comeback against one of the best teams in the NBA.

Even though the rally fell short, Malone was happy to see Thomas play like himself.

“Don’t go out there and try to be (NBA all-time assists leader) John Stockton. You’ve never been that,” Malone said. “He is a scorer, and he needs to be a scorer for us.”

The Thunder (13-3) got enough from Durant (27 points, 11 rebounds) and Westbrook (15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) to hold off the Kings, who never led in the fourth.