The hump is right there. The Sacramento Kings can see it. They just can’t get over it, at least not yet.
Isaiah Thomas’ fallaway jumper with one second left drew iron and the Kings fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Sleep Train Arena Tuesday night 97-95.
That makes three consecutive agonizing losses on the current homestand, during which Sacramento has gone toe-to-toe with three teams considered to be among the Western Conference’s best.
There was the overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, the two-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday afternoon and now a two-point loss to the Thunder. Three teams thought to be contenders … combined margin in regulation time for the Kings minus-4.
The Kings jumped out on top quickly despite not having center DeMarcus Cousins available. He was inactive for Tuesday night’s game with an ankle injury, per play-by-play man Grant Napear via Twitter:
No DMC tonight. .out with an ankle injury
— Grant Napear (@GrantNapearshow) December 4, 2013
He scored seven in the opening quarter, as did Derrick Williams, as the Kings broke out to a 31-19 lead.
But Oklahoma City roared back in the second quarter, erasing the 12-point deficit to take a 50-47 halftime edge. Kevin Durant scored 18 in the first half alone, 10 in the second quarter, as Sacramento went ice cold, hitting just 7-of-21 from the floor after going 11-for-19 in the first.
The Thunder continued to roll over the Kings in the third quarter, even getting six quick points from Nick Collison of all people, to open a 78-65 lead after three quarters. Rookie Ben McLemore tried to keep the Kings close with seven points in the quarter, but Sacramento made just 6-of-23 for the period.
After scoring 31 in the first 12 minutes, the Kings managed just 34 over the next 24.
But Thomas went nuts in the fourth quarter and almost single-handedly brought Sacramento all the way back.
Thomas scored 21 in the quarter, fueling a 15-4 run to open the period that brought the Kings back to within 84-80 with 5:57 remaining.
Reggie Jackson canned a 3-pointer with 2:25 left to put the Thunder up 97-91. Thomas countered with a running hook in the lane with 2:01 to go to make it 97-93 and Sacramento forced a shot-clock violation at the other end.
Thomas gave the Kings a chance, stealing the ball from Russell Westbrook and hitting a 20-footer to bring Sacramento back to within two at 97-95, the closest the game had been since the Kings took an ever-so-brief one-point lead in the third quarter, before OKC closed the third period on a 14-0 run.
Durant went for the dagger, a long 3-pointer, that missed and Patterson got the rebound for the Kings. That set up Thomas for the fadeaway that didn’t go in.
Thomas scored 21 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth. McLemore added 14 points, Williams had 13, Vasquez 12 and Thompson 10 to go with 10 rebounds. Patterson had 10 rebounds off the bench and Vasquez handed out seven assists.
Durant led the Thunder with 27 points, Westbrook added 15, Jeremy Lamb had 14 and Ibaka and Jackson each scored 13. Durant also had 11 rebounds and Westbrook had seven assists to go with seven turnovers.
The Kings have one more chance to get a win on the homestand Friday night when they host the Los Angeles Lakers. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Pacific.