OKC Thunder Fall Short in Final Pre-Season Game
Originally Published: Oct 23, 2009 10:34 AM CDT
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the preseason winding down, the Sacramento Kings got just the kind of spark they had been missing from Andres Nocioni. They're just learning what rookie Omri Casspi can do.
Nocioni scored 19 points and Casspi added 16 as the Kings beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-89 on Thursday night despite playing without leading scorer Kevin Martin.
Nocioni did all of his scoring in the first half as Sacramento took advantage of Oklahoma City's suspect 3-point defense to build a big lead. The Kings then put the game away with a 16-0 surge in the third quarter.
"It was nice to see Nocioni break out like that. We all know he's a really good player, but he's kind of had a slow start in training camp," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "That was a big thing."
Nocioni had averaged 13.7 points after coming over from Chicago in a February trade, but was scoring just 5.4 points per game this preseason. He had 14 points in the second quarter alone.
"I tried to make my open shots," Nocioni said. "I think I played well and this team played well."
Westphal replaced Spencer Hawes with Sean May in the starting lineup and Casspi started in place of Martin, who sprained his left ankle in a loss to Phoenix on Tuesday. Westphal said the injury to Martin, the NBA's seventh-leading scorer last season, was minor and "nothing long term."
"Casspi just keeps making steps every game to prove that he belongs on the court. When you have a player who keeps playing like that, he's an easy guy to put in the game," Westphal said.
Sacramento (2-4) finishes preseason play Friday night against Utah, then opens the regular season Wednesday with another visit to Oklahoma City.
"I really wish we didn't have to play this game before we play them next week. Both teams I'm sure held a few wrinkles back," Westphal said. "But we're just looking at our team, and we found some things that worked real well and some players that were really ready to play."
Jason Thompson added 15 points, Donte Greene scored a preseason-high 11 and Hawes had 10 for Sacramento.
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City (2-5) with 15 points, rookie James Harden scored 14 and reserve Etan Thomas had 12 points and nine rebounds.
"We're a young team. We want to get better every time we step on the floor," Durant said. "Tonight was a tough one. We took some steps back. ... Teams go through this, but it's how you bounce back."
May and Thompson had consecutive putbacks to cap Sacramento's big run and make it 85-57. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks began removing his starters after that. The Kings led by 31 points after three quarters before the Thunder reserves made a late charge.
The Thunder lost their last three preseason games while getting scorched from 3-point range at times. Houston shot 55 percent and San Antonio 74 percent in wins against the Thunder earlier this week.
Sacramento hit 7 of 8 from 3-point range over the final 9 minutes of the second quarter to turn a one-point lead into a 17-point advantage. For the rest of the game, the Kings were only 3 for 18 but the damage was already done.
"That's been a bad trend the last three games. Three games in a row, teams have made over 10 3s in a game and the best 3-point shooting teams don't do that," Brooks said. "It seems like right now the other teams are on a hot streak against us, but I'm not going to just say it's because they're hot.
"You have to make guys miss, and we didn't do a good job of making players miss."