Kings put aside woes to storm past Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY • There may not be a locker room in the National Basketball Association more dysfunctional than the Sacramento Kings'.

Battles between coach George Karl and players such as DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo have been well chronicled.

However, there has never been a question that the team are still one of the most purely talented in the league. That was proven on Monday, when the Kings beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-104 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Kings centre DeMarcus Cousins scored 33 points and shot 11-for-27 from the field to go along with 19 rebounds. Guard Marco Belinelli came off the bench to score 21 points and Rondo posted 19 assists for the Kings (14-20).

Forward Serge Ibaka led the Thunder (24-11) with 25 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Forward Anthony Morrow added 20 points, while guard Russell Westbrook compiled 17 points and 15 assists.

Thunder forward Kevin Durant did not play because of a sprained right big toe.

"It definitely helped having K.D. out," Cousins said.

"That's a big threat that they didn't have tonight. It made our jobs a little bit easier on defence. I think we were able to key in on Russ tonight and make other guys shoot, and we won the game."

With Durant sidelined, Morrow got the start. Earlier in the season, he had the same opportunity but did little with it.

This time around, he came out looking for his shot and knocking them down.

The Thunder bolted ahead by 17 points behind Morrow and Ibaka. However, Cousins and Belinelli slowly reeled Oklahoma City back, and the Kings led 68-66 at half-time.

A goal-tending call on Ibaka put Sacramento ahead 113-100 with 2min 42sec left in the contest.

Morrow hit a running hook before guard Rondo missed two shots from the free-throw line. Westbrook's lay-up closed the gap to nine with 2:05 remaining.

Even though the home side came up with defensive stops, they committed back-to-back turnovers in the same span. The Thunder could not get any closer.

Victory saw Kings head coach Karl pass Phil Jackson in all-time NBA coaching victories.

He earned his 1,156th win to displace Jackson in fifth place, behind Pat Riley, Jerry Sloan, Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Kings put aside woes to storm past Thunder'. Print Edition | Subscribe