I’m not sure what exactly it is. I know we have one of those atmospheres that even jazzes up visiting teams from time to time. It’s been well documented that even opposing NBA players appreciate the passion that emanates from Chesapeake Energy Arena. I see how that could backfire, if our passion fired up the wrong team. I could very easily envision certain NBA players who would salivate over the challenge to quiet Loud City.
Therefore, I’m not exactly sure why the Kings have been unable to rise to the challenge since “The ‘Peake” was referred to as The Ford Center. In their 10 total trips to Oklahoma City, including last night, the Kings have yet to take a victory away from the area. Although that’s not to say they didn’t try last night.
The 1st quarter was mostly back-and-forth, with the Kings clinging to a 22-20 advantage with 2:39 remaining in the quarter. That’s when they started a 8-2 run that gave them their largest lead of the game, a 30-22 advantage with 1:15 to play in the period. Unfortunately for the Kings, that would be the largest lead they would see all game, as an immediate 6-0 Thunder run pulled them to within 2 to end the 1st (30-28).
It ended up as an 8-0 Thunder run when a Jeremy Lamb pull-up jumper tied the game at 30-all with 11:33 remaining in the half. The King’s Isaiah Thomas immediately went on a 6-0 run of his own, as a 3-ball, followed by 3 free throws off of a Lamb foul brought the score to a 36-30 Kings advantage. The Kings lead was still 6 (39-33) at the 9:25 mark when the Thunder went on an 8-0 run to claim a 2-point advantage (41-39) with 5:36 to go until the break. After some slight back-and-forth, the score was 43-all at the 4:04 mark. That’s when the Thunder went on a 12-4 run to claim an 8-point advantage (55-47) with 1:24 left in the half. A Derek Fisher lay-up had the Thunder lead maintained at 8 (57-45) only for Fisher to be yet another Thunder player to foul Thomas behind the arc. His 3 free throws put the score at 55-50 for the half.
Thomas was having a great game with Reggie Jackson guarding him. That’s when Scott Brooks actually utilized strategy (surprising, I know), and switched to some Thabo Sefolosha defense for Thomas. The move paid off, as with 9:22 to play in the 3rd, and the score tied 60-all, the Thunder sparked a 27-10 run to give them what was easily their largest lead of the night, at 87-70 with 33 seconds to play in the 3rd. The 4th would begin with a 15-point Thunder advantage, 89-74.
The 4th saw the Thunder begin it with a 9-0 run that pretty much sealed the win, as it was 98-74 with 8:08 remaining. During that run, the Thunder fanatic got to see one of the more odd ejections of the NBA season. Quincy Acy was called for a shooting foul on Nick Collison. Don’t ask me why, but Rudy Gay really took exception to this. He went off on lead official Ken Mauer, calling the foul BS (but in a much less tactful way) three times before Mauer finally T’d up Gay. You would figure Gay would have learned his lesson. But, despite Mauer telling Gay to calm down, Gay dropped the expletive twice more before Mauer had finally had enough, and T’d up Gay for a second time, effectively ejecting him from the game with 10:01 left to play. The Kings spent the rest of the 4th chipping away, but the Thunder lead was too much to surmount, as the Thunder claimed a 108-93 victory which climbs their record to 31-10, while dropping the Kings’ to 14-25.
Kevin Durant’s 30 points led the Thunder, but notice how much easier wins seem to come by when Durant isn’t asked to do everything by himself? Serge Ibaka dropped 20 for this game, marking his third straight game scoring 20 or more, which is a first in Ibaka’s career. Jackson posted 16 points, while Sefolosha drained 10. Jeremy Lamb and Nick Collison combine for 20 off of the Thunder bench, with both players scoring 10 apiece.
Thomas’ 38 points led all scorers to take the floor. But, it wasn’t enough to get the win, as there were only two other players to do anything significant for the Kings last night. DeMarcus Cousins had a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double, while Jason Thompson had an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double of his own.
Tomorrow night, the Thunder have a true test in front of them. They will welcome the Trail Blazers back into town to see f they can get one step closer to tying the season series. The Blazers took a 111-104 victory back on Dec. 4th, and took a 98-94 victory to mark the Thunder’s first New Year’s Eve loss of the OKC era. With only two games remaining in the season series, a split is the best the Thunder can hope for at this point. The game tips at 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, or NBA League Pass.