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Thunder grind out win over Kings

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OKLAHOMA CITY — With Oklahoma City missing more than 60 points a game due to injuries, it has had to find out ways to compete. None more than grinding out games on the defensive end. It was that defensive mindset that carried the Thunder to a 101-93 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“We wanted to make sure that on every pass that there was a man in front of the receiving player,” Thunder coach Brooks said. “It’s as simple as that. That’s what we talk. Play together basketball. And defensively, it takes a commitment to guarding your man and it takes trust the other four guys are there for you if you need.”

The win was the second of the season for the Thunder, who moved to 2-5 on the season. Both wins have come at home against teams that were leading their division at the time.

“They played very physical,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “The game plan was to beat us up. And every game takes on its own personality. We didn’t not respond very well to that. We were more concerned with the officials than trying to play the game.”

With three minutes left in the game, Kings guard Darren Collison drained a corner 3-pointer to cut the Thunder lead to 87-83. After an Oklahoma City turnover, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins got a layup and the Kings were down by two. Jackson was fouled and hit two free throws, and Cousins responded by going to the free-throw line and hitting one of two foul shots.

Oklahoma City held an 89-86 advantage with 1:58 left. After Jackson hit a technical foul shot, forward Lance Thomas put back a missed Jackson jumper and the Thunder went up 92-86 with 1:40 on the clock.

Collison found guard Ben McElmore open in the corner for a 3-pointer, but Jackson calmly answered with a fade-away jumper in the lane.

The Kings (5-2) went to Cousins, but forward Serge Ibaka blocked his shot and guard Jeremy Lamb was fouled. He hit both attempts from the free-throw line to put the game away. Forward Rudy Gay paced the Kings with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Cousins added 16 points and seven rebounds while McElmore also scored 16 points.

Lamb posted 17 points while guard Sebastian Telfair and Ibaka each added 14 points.

Oklahoma City held outrebounded Sacramento 40-37 and also came up with six blocked shots on the night. The Kings hurt themselves by shooting 15-of-22 from the line.

“We’ve been in every game,” Lamb said. “We just try to help each other out. Try to compete, use our length. Talk to each other. Do those little things to be a good defensive team.”

Despite getting 11 first-half points from Gay, the Kings shot only 36.6 percent from the field and trailed 52-39 at halftime.

“We dug ourselves a hole,” Gay said. “It came to a point to where it didn’t go our way. You can’t start like that. It’s a good learning experience for us. No matter who we are playing, we can’t come out playing like that.”

The lackluster Kings were energized in the third quarter by Cousins. After having to be restrained from confronting an official, he turned his anger toward the Thunder and took over the game.

Sacramento went on a 26-15 run to close to within two points heading into the final period.

It was the unlikely contribution of guard Ish Smith, who the Thunder turned to in order to hold off the charging Kings. Smith just joined the team Friday under the NBA’s hardship rule due to the rash of injuries Oklahoma City has suffered. He scored seven points in seven minutes of action.

But Smith gave his new home fans the credit.

“This crowd is the best in the league, easy,” said Smith, who had seven points in seven minutes. “These fans are unbelievable. It felt good to be on the other side. So that was encouraging.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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