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Thunder strike out in baseball set, sliding to Kings 122-106

With Ty Jerome, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Theo Maledon absent from the lineup, Oklahoma City entered Tuesday’s baseball set-closer wielding no true point-guard. For the Thunder, their deficiency at the one was subsided early, but after 48 minutes — they were bounced 122-106. Oklahoma City fans rallying for a tank job whirled through a pool of emotions in this game, but ultimately, they came out happy. With the loss, the Thunder retained their bottom three lottery odds with sole possession of the third-best odds under a 21-49 record. Sacramento’s playoff hopes still remain following their big win as with three more games on their 31-38 record, their is a chance to pass the tenth-seeded Spurs for a play-in bid.

This game took a pause really before anything started. Forty-five seconds into play following a challenged Aleksej Pokusevski foul, the call was deemed unsuccessful. Oklahoma City started the game searching for an identity, starting 2-of-7 with no real initiator. The Thunder found their rhythm after this stretch, holding Sacramento down on defense with spacing the floor for players to go one-on-one inside. Oklahoma City jumped out to a 12-0 run in this tactic, highlighted by a Jason Kidd-esque fastbreak in which Darius Bazley wrapped the ball around his body before flaring off a mid-air pass to Moses Brown under the rim. Next thing you knew, Luke Walton was clamoring for a timeout, down 19-10 just inside the midway mark. The Thunder’s led inflated to double-digits at the four-minute mark as Sacramento’s issues lingering while Kenrich Williams expanded the game to ten, using seven-straight Thunder points to tip the scales. Sacramento covered ground with their second unit late, trimming the game down to 32-27 at the quarter’s close. Oklahoma City found the perfect recipe shooting 4-of-6 from outside in the frame while Kenrich Williams took a leadership role with 10 points. Sacramento failed to replicate Oklahoma City’s three-point shooting going just 3-of-10, though their struggles were condensed with 5 steals.

Mark Daigneault made a controversial call swapping in his second unit to start the frame, needless to say, it paid off. The Thunder stormed out to a quick 14-point lead nailing their first 9 field goals, the Kings in that span started 5-of-11. Oklahoma City’s prominent shooting never wore off, but in time, Sacramento found their way in the door. The Kings caught wind from the three around the five-minute mark, starting a 14-5 run that cut the lead to a single possession, using a pair of threes, free throws, and floaters to gain traction. Sacramento kept their bid in the conversation the whole way, dropping the game to 65-62 at half.

Oklahoma City could not miss. They shot a half-best 62.2-percent from the floor in the first twenty-four elevating to a 75-percent clip going 6-of-8 from three. In Oklahoma City’s ten-man rotation, Jaylen Hoard was the lone member to not score by half, though with a surprise 7-point frame from Charlie Brown Jr., his blank page went unnoticed. Sacramento shot a respectable 47-percent in the half, putting their eggs into the three, going 9-of-22 (40.9% FG.) Wings Terrance Davis and Buddy Hield lit the flame for the roster becoming the top options with 19 and 14 respective half points. The Kings’ problem didn’t rest in the percentages (attempted nine more shots than OKC), the issue came from the line. Sacramento shot a respectable 9-of-10 at the charity stripe, but with Oklahoma City hitting the line 16 times (13-of-16 FTM) — that was enough to sway the game. 

Sacramento went right inside to start the second half, spurring a 6-2 opening run to sketch their first lead since the game’s onset. The Thunder started the frame a mere 3-of-10 from the field but their aggressiveness put them into the bonus five minutes in, giving themselves a clear pathway down five. The Kings managed to calm down on the fouls once free-throw implications were in play, and they shined. Sacramento took out an 8-2 one-minute spurt with four to go, using two threes and a layup to amass a 12-point lead. Oklahoma City never quite found their sync, and off a closing 22-8 Kings run, they were in their largest hole yet at 103-83. 

Both sides placed their starters in the fourth for the majority of the frame, and it produced the same result. Sacramento’s lead stacked to 28 at its peak while a 8-point quarter from Svi Mykhailiuk lessened the cushion — but made no lasting impact.

“Overall a lot of good possessions. A lot of good stretches. I thought our effort tonight was really, really good to start the game and to finish. The third quarter was obviously the difference in the game,” said Mark Daigneault postgame.

The Thunder were outscored by the Kings 41-18 in the third quarter.

Sacramento shot 51-percent overall Tuesday, but their 19-of-39 (48.7%) field day from distance is what really put themselves on the map. Terrance Davis starred for the Kings off the bench yet again scoring 27 points (9-of-15 FG), including a 5-of-7 going from three, to go along with 5 rebounds. Davis’ role in the Thunder-Kings mini-series was pivotal as in the teams’ three meet-ups, the Ole Miss alum averaged 21.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists a game. Delon Wright also showed his marksmanship shooting 5-of-7 from the perimeter to bolster a 21-point, 8-assist game. Buddy Hield stood along as the Kings’ third option nailing 5-of-11 triples en route to his own 21-point, 6-assist game.

Oklahoma City stayed afloat with a 46-percent shooting night, even added with a 39-percent piecing from three, but with only 9 makes from the triple — their shot selection boxed them in.

Kenrich Williams was praised by Coach Daigneault and players alike in the hours leading into Tuesday’s game, he made sure to impress. Williams clocked 20 points (8-of-15 FG), 4 assists, and 4 steals while going 4-of-5 from three.

Darius Bazley logged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in his starting gig, but his 3-of-13 shooting was lackluster at best. Bazley’s shots, both inside and out (2-of-7 3pt FG), struggled, but his knack at digging into the Kings’ defense netted the sophomore 12 free throws — hitting 10.

Svi Mykhailiuk shot 7-of-14 Tuesday to harvest his 14 points, while members Moses Brown, Tony Bradley, and Aleksej Pokusevski racked up 10 points. Moses Brown matched Sacramento’s entire team in offensive rebounds with 6, adding that token up for a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double. Tony Bradley charged a similar outlet with all 10 of his points generating inside with 6 rebounds. Pokusevski had 5 turnovers in the game, but never once seemed fazed by a slip-up.

Oklahoma City’s road-stands are officially over as they will conclude their final two regular-season games at the ‘Peake against the Utah Jazz on Friday, and the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night.

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