By Randy Renner
The Oklahoma City Thunder set the tone for the night in the 1st quarter, hit a couple of sour notes in the third but saved the best for last in a 101-93 win over the Sacramento Kings Sunday night.
"We are undermanned," admitted head coach Scott Brooks, "but our guys never use that as an excuse. We are never undermanned when it comes to team and spirit."
The Thunder stumbled in the third quarter, scoring just 15 points while turning the ball over eight times. But in the fourth quarter with the game on the line OKC scored 34 points and gave the ball back to the Kings just one time.
That effort got the sellout crowd at The Peake on its feet and roaring.
"This crowd's the best in the league," declared the newest member of the Thunder, point guard Ish Smith who played eight minutes and scored seven points. "It felt good to get the win."
"The fourth quarter execution was really good for us," Brooks said. "We relaxed with that big lead in the third quarter and we just can't afford to do that."
The Kings came into the game sitting on a five game winning streak and a 5-1 record on the young season. They hadn't had this good of a start in 15 years.
But the Thunder took them down for the 11th straight time and 16th in the last 17 games.
"I don't think we had the right mindset to start the game," said Kings coach Michael Malone. "Their game plan was to beat us up and be physical. We did not respond very well to that."
The Thunder were led by Reggie Jackson's 22 points. He was just 6-for-19 shooting but he was 9-for-10 at the foul line and handed out six assists. Jeremy Lamb bounced back from a poor defensive night against Memphis to score 17 points, pull down nine rebounds and dish four helpers.
"I thought Jeremy had a defensive mindset tonight and that set the tone," Brooks said. "He did a great job tonight."
Brooks told reporters he chewed on Lamb a little during Saturday's film session for his lack of defensive intensity Friday night and it paid off quickly because Lamb seemed to be locked in on defense from the opening tip forcing the Kings into a shot clock violation on their first possession.
Lamb said the reason for his better play was simple, "I played harder tonight, just tried to do more."
The Thunder got 14 points each from Serge Ibaka, who also had nine rebounds and four blocks and Sebastian Telfair.
Nick Collison was outstanding with 10 points, on 4-for-5 shooting. He also hit a couple of threes and grabbed seven rebounds and Kendrick Perkins had another good offensive night with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting and five rebounds.
Collison said in some of the recent games he and his teammates tended to just feel their way along but "tonight we just went out and tried to take the game."
And that's just what they did.
The Thunder won't practice on Monday, they really don't have enough healthy bodies to do that anyway, and will fly to Milwaukee for Tuesday's game against the Bucks. This coming week the Thunder will have a great opportunity to crawl back toward .500 with games at Milwaukee, Boston and then home against Detroit. None of those teams made the playoffs last season and may not this season either.
Anthony Morrow should be back sometime in that timespan too and that will help with the offensive production.
If the patched together Thunder can get a little win streak going while half the roster heals up a little more all the better.
"It's always more fun when you win," Collison said, "and even better when you win and play the right way and I think we did that tonight."