SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t overly concerned that they broke from the gates a bit more slowly than they would have desired.
They are far more peeved about the whistles they are receiving along the way, namely the ones blown by officials and the rate at which they are hearing them.
“We haven’t been getting the benefit of the doubt,” Oklahoma City guard Paul George told The Oklahoman after the Thunder’s 103-99 loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland on Sunday.
That defeat dropped Oklahoma City to 4-5 in the season’s early stages, and one of the bigger issues involves free throws.
Oklahoma City will seek a change in the pattern Tuesday night when it visits the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center.
The Thunder rank 25th among the league’s 30 teams in free-throw attempts per game at 19.0. Their opponents are shooting 24.4 per game, the ninth-highest figure in the league.
The discrepancy reared its head in a blatant way Sunday when the Blazers outshot the Thunder 28-15 from the line and outscored them 22-8 on free throws.
The ejection of forward Carmelo Anthony for a flagrant-2 foul on a play in which he originally was awarded a basket and apparent three-point-play attempt also stood out. Anthony is expected to play against the Kings.
“What’s more concerning to me,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “is the fact that our opponents have gotten to the free-throw line 50 times more than we have.”
Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, who racked up a record 42 triple-doubles last season while joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the only NBA players to average a triple-double for a season, is at 20.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game this season. He has four triple-doubles. Last season, he averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists.
Anthony and George have been solid so far, too. Anthony is averaging 20.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 32 minutes per game but has been held below 20 in three consecutive games. George is averaging 21.0 points and 5.1 rebounds in 34 minutes and has scored 20 in five straight.
The Kings (1-8) could use a boost. They went winless on their just-concluded three-game road trip and have failed to score 100 points in four consecutive games. They are off to their worst start since dropping 13 of their first 14 in 1990-91.
Rookie guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, the 25-year-old who spent five seasons playing in Europe, made 6 of 7 from the field and scored 14 points in Sacramento’s 108-99 loss at Detroit on Saturday. He is averaging 10.7 points.
Fellow rookie De’Aaron Fox is leading Sacramento at 12.7 points per game, but the Kings are looking for more early-game consistency.
“You have to work on it,” Fox told the Sacramento Bee. “You have to be in the best shape of your life to play that hard every possession, but it’s something that I know I’m going to have to do. There are players in the league that do that, so I know I’m going to have to do it.”