Oklahoma City narrowly avoided a three-game losing streak on Sunday night as the Thunder slipped past the Kings 98-95 inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It appeared the Thunder were going to let fourth quarter woes decide their fate yet again as they let a 12-point lead flip to a six-point deficit with less than three minutes left in the game. Sacramento was rolling, and everything seemed to be going wrong for the Thunder.
Kevin Durant had a game-high 10 turnovers, and groans from the crowd emerged due to the home team’s dependence on “hero ball” late in the game, with the Thunder using very little ball movement.
Luckily for the Thunder fans in attendance for “Sunset Sunday”, Durant showed why he has a shiny MVP trophy to his name with a clutch performance in the game’s final minutes.
With 1:17 left on the game clock, Durant slashed to the basket and converted an 11-foot jumper while getting fouled to bring the Thunder within two points after he missed the free throw.
Two possessions later, the Thunder trailed 95-94 and opted put the ball in the hands of Durant yet again. The 6-foot-9 sharpshooter got the ball just inside the three point line on the right side and nailed the clutch jumper to give OKC a 96-95 lead with only 23 seconds left in the game.
Oklahoma City needed a defensive stop in order to win the game, and Durant showed he can be clutch on that end of the floor as well. Sacramento’s Rudy Gay had the ball in his hands as the clock ticked down with Steven Adams guarding him. Gay dribbled right, and as he did, Durant was anticipating the move by Gay, and was able to help force a turnover with the help of Adams.
Durant then put the Thunder up three points with a pair of free throws, and Kings’ guard Marco Belinelli failed to draw iron on his game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer, as the Thunder improved to 12-8 on the season.
Durant was the hero at the end for OKC, but it was Russell Westbrook who carried the Thunder throughout most of the game. The electric point guard recorded his third triple-double of the season with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Westbrook also had three steals on the defensive end.
Enes Kanter had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Anthony Morrow added nine points—all in the first half. Serge Ibaka was limited to only 19 minutes in the game due to foul trouble, but still managed to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds.
Oklahoma City’s interior defense was effective throughout most of the night, and the home team was able to hold Kings’ star Demarcus Cousins to only 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
The Thunder hit the hardwood again on Tuesday when they travel to Memphis to play against the Grizzlies. Oklahoma City will be back on home on Friday when the Hawks come to town.