The Thunder have slim hopes of moving up from the fourth seed entering Monday night’s game in Sacramento, where the Kings are beginning their final two-game homestand before an anticipated move to Anaheim.
Kevin Durant(notes) scored 31 points in the Thunder’s 120-106 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Oklahoma City (54-26) had lost all nine previous games on the road to the Lakers, including three in the postseason, since Durant joined the team.
“This was a step in the right direction, but we want to get to something bigger, but it was kind of a statement win for us,” Durant said.
“The fourth quarter defense was the best as we could possibly play against one of the best teams in basketball,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “Anytime you can beat the Lakers it’s a good win. They’re one of the best teams and they haven’t won a lot of games lately, but they’re going to be right there.”
Los Angeles and Dallas are tied for the No. 2 seed, one game ahead of Oklahoma City. The Thunder can finish second in the West if they win out, the Lakers lose twice and the Mavs lose once.
The postseason is a distant memory for Sacramento (24-56), and it appears that NBA basketball will be soon as well. The Kings have spent 26 seasons in California’s capital, and will likely move south.
Anaheim’s City Council issued the bonds needed to entice the franchise, new federal trademark rights have been requested, and just about everything else needed to put a simple majority vote before NBA owners is in motion.
This game and Wednesday’s against the Lakers will likely be the final NBA games at Power Balance Pavilion.
Sacramento was considered one of the toughest arenas for visiting teams from 1998-2006, when the Kings made the playoffs eight straight seasons. The franchise has endured five straight losing seasons since.
The Kings return home after salvaging a split of a four-game trip Sunday night with a 104-103 victory at Golden State. Marcus Thornton scored 21 points, including a 22-foot jumper with 12.6 seconds left to secure the win.
“We’ve got two more tough games and those games are building blocks for us to see where we are,” Thornton said. “I credit the guys for still playing hard.”
Rookie DeMarcus Cousins had three double-doubles on the road trip, including 15 points and 13 boards Sunday.
Cousins has also been productive in three losses to Oklahoma City this season, averaging 18.0 points and 13.7 rebounds. Tyreke Evans is averaging 26.0 points in two games against the Thunder this season.
The Thunder have defeated the Kings five straight times overall, with Durant averaging 28.4 points. Westbrook has averaged 20.8 points and 8.2 assists in those games.