Thunder-Kings Preview

The Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t happy with their lackluster

defense in their meeting with the Sacramento Kings less than a week

ago.

They’ll close the season series between the two, however, coming

off one of their better efforts.

The Thunder visit the Kings on Sunday, looking for their third

win in four games between the two this season.

Oklahoma City (37-24) is among the NBA’s top 10 in scoring

defense, holding opponents to 96.4 points per game, but it had two

subpar performances in a win over Sacramento and a loss to Denver

this week. The Thunder held on for a 113-107 win Tuesday despite

allowing the Kings to shoot 53.9 percent, then they struggled in a

119-90 loss at Denver on Wednesday, allowing the Nuggets to shoot

50.6 percent.

Oklahoma City bounced back with a 104-87 win against the Los

Angeles Clippers on Friday, holding the Clippers to 37.2 percent

shooting. It was the 17th time this season the Thunder have held an

opponent to fewer than 90 points, but the first time they’ve done

it since a 99-86 win over Dallas on Feb. 16.

Sacramento has reached 100 points twice against Oklahoma City

this season, but it still has lost two of three.

“Our defense got us this far,” said Thunder rookie James Harden,

who scored 17 points off the bench Friday. “Tonight we wanted to

come out with the energy and intensity and just stay focused on the

defensive end.”

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 32 points after being held to

19 in the loss to Denver. He went 10 of 22 from the field Friday,

recording his 35th game of 30 or more points, tying the franchise

record set by Spencer Haywood during the 1972-73 season. The

Thunder are 24-11 when Durant reaches 30 points.

Oklahoma City is 3 1/2 games behind first-place Denver in the

Northwest Division as it heads into the finale of a three-game road

trip.

“We work hard and continue to get better,” Durant said. “It

feels good to be in that position, but we’ve got to continue to

move forward.”

Durant is averaging 34.9 points in his last five games against

Sacramento. The Thunder lost their most recent trip to Arco Arena,

101-98, despite 37 points from Durant.

The Kings (21-41) have won their last two home games, but they

lost 108-100 at Dallas on Friday after failing to protect a

10-point first-half lead. They pulled within 102-100 with 1:36

remaining, but Tyreke Evans turned the ball over with a chance to

tie the game.

Evans finished with 20 points and Carl Landry had a team-high 21

with eight rebounds, but Sacramento couldn’t overcome its 17

turnovers.

“Out of 48 minutes, we had probably 43 or 44 that were good

enough to win,” coach Paul Westphal said. “The biggest difference

was that we turned it over 17 times (leading to 24 points for

Dallas).”

Landry, who has averaged 17.4 points since the Kings acquired

him from Houston on Feb. 18, has delivered consecutive 20-point

performances. He scored 17 against the Thunder earlier this week

after scoring 21 in each of his two previous games against them

this season.