10:00 PM ET, March 10, 2009
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Despite his team's best streak of the season, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks knew he would hear some criticism from his mom following the Thunder's latest victory.
Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook each scored 24 points, and the Thunder made it a nice homecoming for their popular interim coach, holding on for a 99-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Oklahoma City, which started the season 2-24, won for the fifth time in six games. It was only the Thunder's fifth road victory this season and obviously a pleasing win for Brooks, who knows the Sacramento region well, having grown up in the Northern California town of Lathrop. He was a Kings assistant coach two seasons ago.
"It's really special to see my Mom after a win," said Brooks, who said he rounded up 40 tickets for relatives and friends. "She's my biggest critic. Even though we won she will still probably point out some things I did wrong."
The Thunder did plenty of things wrong in the fourth quarter, committing 12 of their 24 turnovers, including one in the final second to give the Kings a last gasp at a victory.
But the bottom line in the Thunder's locker room was another victory for a team that counts two rookies and two second-year players among its core.
"This is a talented young group that really wants to get better," said veteran Malik Rose, who had 11 points and six rebounds. "We aren't playing for a playoff spot, we're playing to get better. We're on a little roll right now and the ball is bouncing our way. There is a saying in the NBA, the ball finds energy. We're playing with energy right now."
Spencer Hawes tied a career high with 20 points and added 10 rebounds and five assists for the Kings, who had 22 turnovers. Francisco Garcia made four 3-pointers and scored 18, Andres Nocioni had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Rashad McCants added 13 points.
Kevin Martin, the Kings' leading scorer, was on the bench in the game's final 15 minutes and scored 12 points.
"Kevin had been out and had twisted his ankle early," Kings coach Kenny Natt said. "He wanted to stay in since he was loose, then when he sat out I brought the other guys in and he just got really stiff."
With a chance to tie the game with 5 seconds left, Nocioni shot an airball on a wide-open look. Sefolosha made two free throws in the closing seconds, appearing to seal the victory.
But McCants made a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left for the Kings. The Thunder provided the Kings with a chance to send the game into overtime, but a lob from halfcourt with 0.1 seconds left never found the rim.
"We did a lot of good things, but we did a lot of bad things, too," Bobby Jackson said. "We had a lot of turnovers, forced turnovers. We were throwing the ball and not taking out time. If we didn't have those 22 turnovers, we definitely would have won the game."
The loss prevented Sacramento from recording consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 5-7 and kept the Kings (13-50) with the worst record in the NBA.
Trailing by five points, Garcia quickly hit a 3-pointer following a timeout, pulling the Kings within 97-95 with 34 seconds left.
Quiet for much of the game, Krstic scored on consecutive putbacks, the final one with 2:13 remaining, putting Oklahoma City ahead 95-92. A jumper by Westbrook gave the Thunder a 97-92 lead with 38 seconds left.
"We came out aggressive on defense and I think we did a good job of playing our game in the second half," said Westbrook, who committed seven turnovers. "We gave to go on the rod and win games likes this."
Coming back after missing four straight games with a sore lower back, Green made his first shot and was a huge factor early. He was making his perimeter shot throughout the opening half and converted all seven free throws in finishing with 18 points.
"Did I get tired? Yeah," said Green, who had only four second-half points and also committed seven turnovers. "But I felt good, I came back at the right time."
While Green was back in the lineup, Kevin Durant remained sidelined with a sprained right ankle and is day-to-day. The NBA's fourth-leading scorer missed his sixth straight game.
After the Kings went ahead by two points midway through the third quarter on Nocioni's three-point play, the Thunder scored nine straight points to get some rare separation in the tight game. Sefolosha had seven points in the quarter to help the Thunder take an 84-76 lead into the fourth.
A 3-pointer in the closing seconds by Garcia pulled the Kings even at 55-55 heading into the break.
The Thunder scored the game's first 10 points. Garcia continues to shoot well despite having a fractured right ring finger that is heavily taped. The Thunder has held five of the last six opponents under 100 points.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||37-83 (.446)||40-83 (.482)|
|3PM-3PA||3-12 (.250)||7-21 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||22-23 (.957)||11-14 (.786)|
|Fast Break Points||22||10|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||22 (1/0)|