Thunder survive Kings' upset bid
Although Kevin Durant uncharacteristically missed two crucial free throws in the closing seconds of the game, he did enough earlier to help the Oklahoma City Thunder escape Arco Arena with a victory Saturday night.
Durant had a poor night overall from the free-throw line, shooting 8 of 13, but that was the only shortcoming offensively for the NBA's leading scorer. He scored 10 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter to help the Thunder hold off the slumping Sacramento Kings for a 99-97 win.
The victory was fourth in five games for the Thunder. Oklahoma City took the lead on Eric Maynor's 3-pointer to end the first quarter and led the rest of the way in winning their fourth straight road game.
''This was a good road win,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ''Sacramento has been playing a lot better. We knew we were in for a tough game. They have a lot of young players who are improving.''
Yet, the Thunder are an even younger team. But unlike the Kings, Oklahoma City typically knows how to close out a game.
Holding a two-point lead and with Durant at the free-throw line for two shots, it looked like the Thunder were ready to seal the victory. But Durant, an 88 percent free-throw shooter entering the game, missed both attempts to the delight of a raucous crowd with 5 seconds left.
''After he (Durant) did that, I was like 'Yeah, we're going to win this game,''' Kings rookie center DeMarcus Cousins said. ''They (the crowd) were on their feet, they were loud, distracting him, so it helped a lot.''
With a chance to tie it with a basket or win it with a 3-pointer, Tyreke Evans misfired on a 3 over defender James Harden from the top of the key with 1 second left.
''It looked good,'' said Durant, who made 13 of 22 field-goal attempts and added six rebounds. ''I would have taken that shot, too. Tyreke was making shots all night.''
In Wednesday's two-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Evans drove to the basket in the closing seconds of a two-point loss and was bumped and no foul was called after his shot fell way short.
Against the Thunder, Evans elected to go for the win, which didn't bother teammate Samuel Dalembert.
''Tyreke took a heck of a shot,'' he said. ''He did the right thing to go for the win. It was a good shot and we have to live with that.''
Evans had 10 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and added nine rebounds for the Kings, who have lost five straight. Cousins had 14 points and 12 rebounds, Omri Casspi also had 14 points and Beno Udrih added 13 points and seven assists.
The Kings have the second-worst home record (7-22) in the NBA behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and went 1-5 in a homestand that ended against the Thunder.
''We are close to beating those good teams, but we haven't broken through,'' Kings coach Paul Westphal said. ''I would have liked to come in here after the game and not talk about how close we were.''
Russell Westbrook had 22 points and seven assists, and Harden had 11 points and five steals for the Thunder.
Evans, who committed six of Sacramento's 19 turnovers, converted two free throws and his fastbreak layup cut the Thunder's lead to 99-97. After Evans' basket, the Kings quickly fouled Durant.
Following a pair of baskets by Evans that trimmed the Thunder's lead to 97-93, Durant connected on a 21-foot, step-back jumper over Donte Greene, giving Oklahoma City a 99-93 lead with 47 seconds left.
''That's Kevin Durant, that's what he does,'' Cousins said. ''He's a tough matchup. He has a center's height and a guard's quickness.''
Durant made a pair of jumpers and scored off a spinning move in the lane, helping the Thunder take a 97-85 lead with 3:32 remaining.
Both Serge Ibaka and Eric Mayor had a pair of baskets early in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder built an 89-76 lead.
''We were really controlling the paint and making them shoot jumpers,'' Harden said. ''Our defense did a great job, especially late in the game.''
Trailing by nine at the half, the Kings got going behind Evans, who had seven points in the third, and Dalembert, who added six to help the Kings pull to within 75-72 heading into the fourth.
It didn't help the Kings when Cousins picked up three fouls in the first four minutes of the third quarter and went to the bench with four fouls.
The Kings defense had little success slowing down either Durant or Westbrook in the opening half. Durant scored 17 points, including a rare four-point play late in the second quarter. Westbrook had 15 points and four assists for the Thunder, who led 54-45 at the half.
Notes: Maynor made a 47-foot shot at to end the first quarter. The 3-point basket gave the Thunder a 27-24 lead. ... Kings reserve guard Luther Head injured his right knee in the second quarter and was unavailable the remainder of the game. ... The teams meet again Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. It's the first of seven straight road games for the Kings.