Coach Dave Joerger likes to set short-term goals for his young Kings team. He looks at the season in five game groupings and he knows very well that his squad is in the middle of one of the toughest stretches of the season.
After dropping back-to-back games to the Nuggets and Warriors by a total of four points, Sacramento found a way to scramble out a victory against one of the hottest teams in the NBA. It wasn't pretty. The Kings blew big leads multiple times, but with the game on the line, they found a way to close out the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
The 119-116 win pushed the Kings three games over the .500 mark at 31-28. Here are the positives and the negatives from the win.
The difference between winning and losing in the NBA often comes down to one play. Sometimes it's a big shot or a pair of free throws. Every once in a while, it's a stop on the defensive end.
Harrison Barnes was draped all over Paul George on the final possession, forcing the MVP candidate to miss a 31-footer at the buzzer that would have tied the game. But even that wasn't the play of the night.
With 11.5 seconds remaining and the Kings leading 118-116, Russell Westbrook attacked the rim like he had the entire evening. As he approached the key, Willie Cauley-Stein cut off his pathway to the rim. Westbrook crashed into the Kings' center as he hit the floater over the top.
After a review of the play, the officiating crew stuck with their original call - an offensive foul against Westbrook. The play potentially changed the outcome of the game.
With the development of De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and even Marvin Bagley III, Cauley-Stein has had to take a step back on the offensive end. He's come up with some tremendous plays this season, but against Westbrook and the Thunder, the 26-year-old showed a new level of commitment to winning.
He added 10 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of action for his 18th double-double of the season.
The great state of Oklahoma loves Buddy Hield. The former OU Sooner drove to Norman earlier in the day to watch his alma mater hold on to beat the Texas Longhorns 69-67. He returned to in time to light up the Thunder.
Hield torched OKC for 34 points on 12-of-22 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc. He came out hot, dropping in 14 points in the first quarter and kept it going throughout the evening.
Sacramento's leading scorer added five rebounds, four assists and set a new career-high in free throw attempts with nine. He also knocked down his 200th 3-pointer of the season.
Battle at the Point
Westbrook vs. Fox is must see TV. The veteran put on a show against Fox, dropping 41 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes of action. When he gets in the open court, he is nearly impossible to stop.
Fox did his best, but once Westbrook gets moving downhill, it takes a team effort to slow him down.
Although the stat comparison is lopsided, Fox still managed to score 19 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. He also posted a 9-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio, blocked three shots and picked up a steal.
Lastly, Fox came away with the victory, which in the end is the only stat that matters.
Marvin Bagley has arrived. The 19-year-old forward is becoming the double-double machine the Kings thought he would be when they drafted him with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The rookie plays with an energy and passion that is contagious. Against the Thunder, he notched his 12th double-double of the season, finishing the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in 36 minutes off the bench.
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In the month of February, Bagley is averaging 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in 29.5 minutes per game. Since returning from injury, the rookie big has scored in double-figures in 16 out of 18 games. He's quickly becoming the team's No. 1 option off the bench and earning the trust of the coaching staff.