Thunder host lowly Kings

Oklahoma City should get a bit of a respite Friday in the furious race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

The Thunder will host the lowly Sacramento Kings as they continue to try to hold off the San Antonio Spurs. In fact Oklahoma City will get to face the Kings three times over the final eight games in the regular season.

Both the Thunder and Spurs lost on Wednesday, keeping OKC a game ahead in the tightly contested race. However, San Antonio rebounded to top Memphis on Thursday and is now just one-half game back for the West lead.

The Thunder fell victim to Chris Paul on Wednesday when the All-Star scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead basket with 8.8 seconds remaining to give the Clippers a 100-98 comeback victory.

Kevin Durant tried answering Paul's driving floater, but his three-point try from the left wing found all iron as the buzzer sounded.

The Thunder led by as many as nine in the second half, but Paul took over in crunch time. The game-deciding play was set up for Paul, who came off a pick at the top of the key, dribbled past Kendrick Perkins, faked a pass to the right wing and lofted a floater that rattled in with 8.8 seconds on the clock.

Durant was unable to counter, sending the Northwest Division-champion Thunder to just their sixth home loss (24-6).

"They made some runs and some big shots and offensively, we couldn't get it going enough to win the game," Thunder guard James Harden said.

Durant finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook scored 20 points for Oklahoma City in the setback.

The Kings, meanwhile, have been faltering badly down the stretch, matching a season-high by dropping their sixth straight to New Orleans, 105-96, on Wednesday.

Marcus Thornton paced Sacramento with 25 points, while Tyreke Evans finished with 19 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals.

"We played well early in the game," said Kings head coach Keith Smart. "I thought we did a good job early in the game. This team, New Orleans is going to play hard all the time. They are going to make plays all the time. They just grind it out. We had so many easy plays that we could have made that we didn't make, easy shots that we could have made."

Sacramento halted a six-game skid to the Thunder with a win in California's capital back on Feb. 9.