Good teams are supposed to beat clubs such as Oklahoma City and Sacramento. The Thunder are starting to take advantage of lesser teams as well.
On a hot streak despite being without their two leading scorers, the Thunder look to beat a last-place club for the third time in 11 days when they visit the Kings on Tuesday night.
Oklahoma City (17-46) owns one of the NBA’s worst records but has won four of five despite missing Kevin Durant (ankle). The Thunder also haven’t had Jeff Green (back) for three of the last four games.
Durant and Green combine to average 43.2 points and 13.6 rebounds. Their status for Tuesday is uncertain.
“Guys are out there scrapping. I think coach (Scott) Brooks and the rest of the coaching staff do a good job, sometimes too good of a job, of always reminding us that the season’s not over and we’ve got to use every play to get better,” forward Malik Rose said.
Two of the Thunder’s last four wins have been against teams with worse records than them. Oklahoma City beat Memphis 99-92 on Feb. 28 and knocked off Washington 88-83 on Wednesday night.
Those teams are in last place in their respective divisions, as are the Kings (14-49).
Oklahoma City may have to continue its strong play on defense to extend its run, as Sacramento has scored 223 points in its last two games.
The Thunder have allowed 92 points or fewer in four of their last five contests, the only loss in that span coming to New Orleans 108-90 on Saturday night.
Oklahoma City has gotten strong contributions from role players such as Rose, who set season highs with 14 points and seven rebounds in an 89-74 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night.
The veteran played a total of 28 minutes in his final two months with New York before being traded to the Thunder on Feb. 19. He played a season-high 31 minutes Saturday and followed that up with his most productive game of the season.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Rose said. “I’m just having fun and it’s a great group of guys around here. I’m just excited, just really happy.”
Rose played five minutes and went scoreless for the Knicks on Dec. 13 in his first game against Sacramento this season, a 114-90 New York win.
That was just one of the Kings’ poor efforts at home, where they’re 10-21. Sacramento, though, has won two of three at Arco Arena after losing eight of its previous nine and is coming off an outstanding performance on its home floor.
The Kings never trailed in upsetting Denver 114-106 on Sunday night, as Kevin Martin had 26 points to lead six Kings in double figures. Three Sacramento players scored at least 20.
“We just have to continue to do what we’re doing in trying to make guys more accountable,” coach Kenny Natt said.
Udrih had 29 points to lead Sacramento in its last matchup with Oklahoma City, a 116-113 Kings loss Feb. 8. Sacramento won the other meeting between the teams this season, 122-118 in overtime Feb. 1.