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Thunder outclass Kings, take contest 105-103 in buzzer-beating fashion

Tradition. Throughout the Oklahoma City Thunder’s infancy stages as a franchise, the organization has rallied around tradition. From the franchise’s decade-long MVP reign to the jersey retirement of Nick Collison — the group has always cultivated a family-first approach while respecting what has come before them. On Friday, the Thunder wore out a new collection from their set, unraveling a white-and-gray City Edition Jersey with a plethora of franchise flashbacks.

In the Thunder’s call to the past, they played to par with their prior league-wide prominence, ousting the Kings 105-103 to mark the group’s first four-game winning streak since August 1, 2020. Oklahoma City’s four-game win streak has transfigured the group from a conference bottom-dweller to play-in team if the year ended today, now standing at 5-6. For the Kings, their loss pins the franchise to a 5-8 record, now losing their fourth-consecutive contest.   

Sloppy play highlighted the first four minutes of play for both sides as the Thunder started the evening with a lowly 1-of-8 opener while the Kings struggled to surface any cohesion with a 2-of-9 hit rate for a 4-2 Kings edge. Both units gathered themselves as the frame hit its midway point as De’Aaron Fox and Josh Giddey traded off three-point conversions before Richaun Holmes and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander engaged in swappages with interior buckets. Darius Bazley cinched the gap nearing five minutes as the 20-year-old made way with a split gig at the foul line before finding his touch off a driving layup to make the game 11-10. Tristan Thompson ignited the Kings in the backend of the period dousing down a dunk and a floater to extend the game to five — but Buddy Hield laid down the strike, nailing a 25-foot triple to jab an 18-13 lead with two minutes to go. Tre Mann headlines the Thunder late in the quarter as with a free throw along with a finger-roll finish — the game rested at 18-16 with 50 seconds to go. Sacramento made a surge as the dust settled as off of a Tristain Thompson hook shot and a Tyrese Haliburton last-second triple, the Kings held a seven-point 23-16 lead heading into the second period.

Sacramento eclipsed a double-digit lead 90 seconds into the second quarter utilizing a Terrance Davis three with a Richaun Holmes dunk to pick out a 28-17 advantage. Kenrich Williams reinvigorated the “bench mob” as the guard drilled a 26-foot pullup three and a 23-foot in 30 seconds to whittle the deficit before Tre Mann floater capped a 9-0 run to make the hole one possession at the eight-minute mark. Oklahoma City’s streak took a turn as the starters checked in as Harrison Barnes and De’Aaron Fox added nine-consecutive points for the group before a Chimezie Metu triple reignited a ten-point lead for the Kings off a 12-4 run. The Thunder entrusted their stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort in the middle portion of the period as the group tallied 15-consecutive points for the Thunder, however, the team’s faulty efficiency handed Sacramento wiggle room to remain in the conversation — ironing out a 14-point, 48-34 lead at the four-minute mark. Though the Thunder’s dynamic duo kept up the pace with 17 of the team’s final 19 points in the half, the Kings’ wide array of options proved to be to much — pinning the Thunder down 62-48 at half.

Oklahoma City lacked much cohesion in the first half as the team shot 35.2 percent (19-of-54 FG) from the floor, 21.4 percent (3-of-14 3PT) from distance, and 63.6 percent (7-of-11 FTM) from the stripe. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort banded together for the majority of Thunder points as SGA sizzled in 13 points on a 5-of-13 palate while Lu Dort added 12 points in a 5-of-11 showcase. The issue — with Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort out of the picture, the Thunder shot a lowly 9-of-30 (30%) from the floor. 

Sacramento cruised through the first half of play off an efficient 46.0-percent clip (23-of-50 FG) while being capable of extending to the perimeter for a 39.1 percent (9-of-23 3PT) outing. The Kings clobbered the Thunder with inside-out play for the majority of the half utilizing 24 points in the paint to open the gashes for jumpers. Richaun Holmes fueled Luke Walton’s gameplan as the veteran tallied 10 points and 11 rebounds off a perfect 5-of-5 conversion rate. 

Oklahoma City gunned out to kick off the second half as Darius Bazley opened the frame with a cutting layin before Lu Dort connected on two-consecutive triples to lead to a Josh Giddey floater to churn out an 10-2 stint for a six-point game. The Kings diverted back to their bread-and-butter following the falter finding Richaun Holmes for a duo of alley-oop dunks and a Chimezie Metu three to stop the bleeding. On the altering exchange, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found his rhythm striking five points with a layup and a 27-foot stepback three. Shai’s stint of success dried following a Mark Daigneault timeout as the group shanked four-consecutive shots post-timeout including a Darius Bazley timeout. Sacramento made Oklahoma City pay in their cold spell drumming out 14 points unanswered, headlined by seven points from Harrison Barnes. By the end of the Kings’ reign — they stood firm 81-63 with five minutes to go. Darius Bazley sounded the Thunder’s response back into play as the forward nailed eight-consecutive points for Oklahoma City, capped by a driving dunk to shrink the margin to twelve. A play later, that margin lowered to ten off of a Derrick Favors pullup, and at the two-minute mark — a Derrick Favors layup sliced the game to 83-75. After a swappage of a Davion Mitchell three and another Favors basket, Oklahoma City slipped back 86-77 heading into the fourth.

The Thunder’s bench duo in Tre Mann and Mike Muscala riddled out nine-straight team points to open the fourth frame, cutting the game to 90-86 three minutes in off of a Mike Muscala triple. Both sides continued to slow down play as the final period progressed, however, it was the Thunder again who showed up as Kenrich Williams and Darius Bazley nailed a bucket apiece to tie the game at 90-all at the seven-minute mark. Buddy Hield surged the Kings up a minute later off of a 16-foot pull, but Tre Mann sprung right back into action — nailing a 25-foot three to garner Oklahoma City’s first lead of the game. Mann’s conversion spurred on an offensive eruption on both sides as the Thunder’s lead wavered from one point to three points until a three-foot layup from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander etched Oklahoma City on the high side 101-96 with four to go. Mark Daigneault opted to keep Tre Mann in for clutch time in place of Josh Giddey, but Sacramento’s line of offense stole his late-game cameo as a Harrison Barnes layup coupled with a Buddy Hield lead notched the game 101-all with 2 minutes, 44 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took control with a driving layup, but a Lu Dort offensive rebound off a SGA miss — the Arizona State alum stole the show with a putback. Both sides froze up at the two-minute mark as the Kings missed their first three shot attempts while on the Thunder side, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander received charging fouls on two-straight possessions. Sacramento gravitated towards their interior safeguard as the game turned to seconds as Richaun Holmes skied up for a layup before Tre Mann hacked the big, placing Holmes at the line. The first shot is up — good, second try — good. Tie ballgame 49 seconds on tap. Following a Mark Daigneault full timeout, the Thunder set Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the halfcourt, allowing the 23-year-old to drain 22 seconds before popping a 27-foot stepback, no good. After a Richaun Holmes rebound, the ball rested in the hands of De’Aaron Fox. Looking to burn clock, Fox stalked past the timeline, wavering 33-feet from the rim against Lu Dort. Fox made his move to the rim with eight seconds left in play, dashing left before attempting a left-to-right crossover at the left wing — looking the dart inside. The issue — Lu Dort had Fox’s number, stripping the ball loose on the cross for a steal and a whole lot of hardwood for Dort. In Dort’s scramble to the rack, the 22-year-old approached the right elbow before making a sidestep on Buddy Hield to create some room. On Dort’s shot, the guard adjusted mid-air with Hield’s out from play while anxiously awaiting De’Aaron Fox on a chasedown. In Dort’s finger roll, he put little on his shot — but that’s all it needed — swish. Game, set, match, Oklahoma City steals the game 105-103 at the horn.

“He’s [Dort is] just a monster,” said Daigneault. He just willed the steal and willed the layup. He’s got some heart.”

With the Thunder’s deficit resting as far down as 18, the victory continues the franchise’s streak of surmounting double-digit leads to etch the win column.

Oklahoma City’s second half bolstered their end stat line as the group shot a combined 42-of-99 (42.4%) while finding the bottom on 10-of-30 (33.3%) triples. The Thunder found a plethora of quality through the course of Friday’s contest, however, they had little to show for the outing with a season-low 13 assists. The Thunder’s level of hustle tapped into the stats as the group harvested 16 offensive rebounds.

Sacramento found a flurry of success across the evening, but their ending possession stamped a blemish on their play. Sacramento hit the forty mark shooting 38-of-95 (40.0%) from the field while nailing 14-of-41 (34.1%) threes in the game. Richaun Holmes ruled as the Kings’ King placing 16 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes. Harrison Barnes lifted his multiple scoring outbursts to tally 21 points on an 8-of-14 shooting clip. Sacramento sourced three additional double-digit scorers in De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Chimezie Metu, finishing with 16, 14, and 14 points, respectively. 

Lu Dort played his first NBA contest in front of his mother Friday evening. He gave her something to be very proud of. Dort’s game-winning layup marks the second game winner in the 22-year-old’s career; though, Friday’s play marked the first winner influenced by both sides of the ball. Dort ended the night carrying 22 points (9-of-18 FG), 5 rebounds, and 2 steals in 33 minutes. Dort shot a mere 2-of-8 from the three-point line, though the former Sun Devil dominated the Kings around the rack. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spiraled in 22 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists in 35 minutes Friday. SGA shot a bevy of times throughout play, ending the night with a 9-of-24 shooting clip (2-of-8 3PT). Gilgeous-Alexander played with high-ball screens for the majority of the night, but a chalky rate from downtown limited the guard’s assists in the evening. 

Darius Bazley mocked up another efficient outing accruing 15 points and 8 rebounds across 33 minutes. Bazley’s efficiency has taken a stark uptick in the last few games, continuing this model with an astute 6-of-8 showing that included a 2-of-3 rate from downtown. Bazley’s off-ball role has played an instrumental role in the Thunder’s current four-game win streak. It’ll be interesting to see if Baze sticks to a more relegated role such as this for the long haul.

Tre Mann diced in 12 points off the bench for the Thunder, finding his groove for a 5-of-8 clip that included a made triple. As a result of Mann’s high efficiency off of the bench, Daigneault called the 20-year-old’s name in place of Josh Giddey to close the contest — one in which paid dividends. Mann’s nimbleness on the court purplexed Sacramento’s line of defense, leading to a serving of floaters and stepback opportunities. 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produced a scanty 2 points on Friday, however, the 20-year-old bolstered his stat line with 14 rebounds. Robinson-Earl had multiple spoonfed layups from Josh Giddey, among others, under the rim that did not fall, resulting in an eyebrow raising 1-of-9 hit rate from the field. Robinson-Earl still made himself useful on the night in leading the team on the glass, but he’ll be looking to bulk up offensively for the next game.

Josh Giddey took a time-cut for Tre Mann Friday, ending the night with 24 points for 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. As aforementioned, Giddey did an excellent job hitting slashers in stride for baskets, but his 3-of-8 assortment from the floor simply could not match Mann’s level of play. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder (5-6) will look to build their win streak to five Sunday evening as they will square off against the Brooklyn Nets (9-4.)

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