Back-to-back wins are hardly a reason to all-out rejoice this early in the season. But that doesn’t mean the Kings shouldn’t feel good about themselves after disposing of the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-101 on Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.
For the second consecutive game, the defense looked more in sync, and the offense was more balanced, getting players other than DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay involved.
The Kings piled up 26 assists for the second straight game, the Thunder shot just 42.1 percent and Sacramento can enjoy its day off for Thanksgiving feeling progress is being made.
“Even if sometimes it doesn’t appear so, we are getting better at the things we are working on,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger. “Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot and make some ‘holy cow did I just see that happen’ plays, but I think they are few and far between and we are playing well.”
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The improved showings in the last two games have coincided with a change to the starting lineup, when Joerger scrapped his big frontcourt of Cousins, Gay and Kosta Koufos in favor of a smaller lineup with Matt Barnes replacing Koufos.
In the last two games, Koufos has looked good with the second unit. Wednesday, Joerger put Ty Lawson with the second group, making Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo the starting guards.
The result was perhaps the most complete game the Kings have played this season. Cousins came out in dominant fashion, Lawson and the reserves were stellar and in the second half, Gay and Collison found their offense.
The Kings (6-9) had lost four straight before the change.
“When you go through situations like that, you need to change something,” Gay said. “I think that’s something (Joerger) changed and we’re running with it. I don’t think there was anything wrong with our last lineup. Maybe it’s matchup problems every now and then, I still think we could have won like that.
“But you know, being a coach is tough. You have to find something to change and I think it’s benefiting the team.”
Cousins scored 16 of his game-high 36 points in the first quarter. He also had 13 rebounds. Collison had 21 points, 17 coming in the second half, to go with six assists. Gay finished with 17 points, 15 after halftime.
Eight of the nine Kings who played scored at least eight points. Five had at least four assists.
“Everybody’s clicking,” Cousins said. “I think first team is coming out setting the tone early. The second team is coming out with great energy, they’re playing extremely well, everything’s clicking.”
Though Cousins likes what he’s seen recently, he knows there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We’re still makings some mistakes, we’ve still got room to improve,” Cousins said. “So I don’t want to get too high; I don’t to get too low either. So just stay on this path, keep building and keep growing.”
Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City (8-8) with 31 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Victor Oladipo added 18 points.