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SACRAMENTO -- Kings coach Tyrone Corbin emphasized character through adversity after practice on Tuesday and on Wednesday Sacramento responded by defeating the Thunder 104-83 at Sleep Train Arena.
“It’s really what I wanted to see,” said Corbin. “I thought this was a great indicator, coming off the road not having the performance that we wanted (1-3) but to come back here against this opponent and to put together a performance on both ends of the floor like we did shows great character.”
The re-emergence of Sacramento’s defense was key as the Kings held an opponent under 100 points for the first time under Corbin.
[RECAP: Kings silence Thunder 104-83]
“I thought tonight was the first night in a real long time where we really committed on the defensive end,” Darren Collison said.
While Kevin Durant led OKC with 24 points, Collison held fellow UCLA product Russell Westbrook to just 10 points on 3-for-19 shooting.
“KD and Russ, they’re great players, you can only do your work so much,” Collison added. “They’re going to miss some shots on their own and you’re going to make it tough for them, but those are the same shots that they make. As a defender you’ve just got to make it tough as much as possible.”
DeMarcus Cousins agreed with Collison’s sentiment.
“I would say this was our best defensive effort in a while now so it feels good to get back to playing that way and also playing the new type of style,” Cousins said.
Sacramento’s aggression wasn’t limited to just the defensive end of the floor.
The Big Three of Rudy Gay (28), Collison (24) and Cousins (23) combined for 75 points in the victory, yet the point guard stood out to Corbin.
“I thought (Collison) did a great job,” Corbin commented. “Darren, Rudy Gay, and DeMarcus Cousins had huge numbers for us. The way Darren controlled the tempo of the game, controlled the pace, and pushed it when we needed it -- I thought that was all key for us.”
The Kings outscored OKC 36-26 in the paint and went to the free throw line 28 times -- just under three attempts shy of their league-leading average of 30.8 attempts per game.
Cousins alone was 11-for-13 from the free throw line with all attempts occurring in the first half.
“When we play that way, we’re a tough team,” Cousins said on being aggressive. “We matched their physicality and took advantage.”
The Kings had lost to Oklahoma City twice already this season and ended a 12-game losing streak versus the Thunder deploying a style of play amenable to their 6-foot-11 center.
“We’ve gotten other wins but even after those wins you could just tell it wasn’t a good win, it wasn’t good way to win, it just wasn’t the right type of basketball being played,” Cousins said.
“But tonight we played the right way and we got a good win.”
After a lackluster road trip and losing 10 of their last 13 games, the Kings were hungry to get back on the right track.
“I don’t know if it was the stage, the game -- playing a team like OKC, but I thought our sense of urgency was really high,” Collison said.
THE GOOD: The Kings’ defense was stellar, holding the Thunder to 33 percent shooting from the floor including 30 percent from 3-point range and just 84 total points.
THE BAD: Sacramento shot 26-for-73 -- just 36 percent -- from inside the 3-point line.
THE TAKE: Transcending the numbers, the Kings demonstrated the ability to fight through their recent adversity and defeat a quality opponent.
The question lingers — Can Sacramento sustain the type of effort displayed on Wednesday and leave its turbulence behind?