Kings 105, Clippers 99
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
One of the NBA's worst teams this season, the Sacramento Kings seemingly turned back the clock Monday night to a time when the team played before sellout crowds and rewarded their loyal fans with victories.
Marcus Thornton scored 16 of his season-high 29 points in the fourth quarter to help rally the struggling Kings to a 105-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was an emotional night at Arco Arena. Amid reports the team is considering a move to Anaheim, Kings fans organized a ''Here We Stay'' campaign to help keep the team in Sacramento, where they have been since the 1985-86 season.
A sellout crowd, only the second of the season, began to chant ''Here we stay'' during player introductions, but did not repeat it as often as expected throughout the rest of a tightly contested game.
Still, the Kings felt the energy for one of the few times this season. For Kings guard Beno Udrih, the energetic crowd was reminiscent of an era when Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic were regularly leading the Kings to 50-and-60 win seasons.
''I remember when I was young and playing in Slovenia, the Kings were one of my favorite teams,'' Udrih said. ''They had Peja, Vlade and Webber, and you saw how the crowd really got into it. It definitely brought back memories. The crowd was like a sixth-man tonight; they helped us get this win.''
The Kings wore the 1950-51 retro uniforms of the Rochester Royals, who won an NBA championship that season, the only title in franchise history. The crowd cheered loudly at times for the inspired Kings. Among the crowd were Kings owners Joe, Gavin and George Maloof sitting in their usual courtside seats.
Last week, the Maloofs requested an extension of the March 1 deadline to give Kings ownership the opportunity to discuss their options with the NBA Board of Governors at its April 14-15 meeting. The Board is currently considering the Kings' request.
The game was the final one under the Arco Arena name. Starting Tuesday, the new arena name is Power Balance Pavilion. The current arena had the Arco name since the inaugural game in the building on Nov. 8, 1988.
''It was fun,'' Kings forward Omri Casspi said of the atmosphere generated by the rare packed arena. ''We just wanted to go out there and play well and win the game for our fans. ''We talked about it with coach and it was important for us to come and play aggressive and play well.''
The Clippers had no defensive answer for Thornton in the fourth quarter. Acquired from the New Orleans Hornets last week in a trade for Carl Landry, Thornton is still very unfamiliar with the Kings' offense.
Yet Thornton seemed quite comfortable taking big shots in the fourth quarter. He made 4 of 6 field-goal attempts and converted 8 of 9 free throws when the Kings rallied from a five-point deficit and outscored the Clippers 27-16.
''We were running plays for him he doesn't even know, but the guys on the floor, Beno in particular, figured out how we could get him the ball and they just improvised a little bit, and Marcus delivered,'' Kings coach Paul Westphal said.
Coming off the bench in his third game with the Kings, the athletic Thornton was looking for his shot early and had nine first-half points.
''They got me the ball in spots where I can be effective,'' Thornton said. ''This is a young team that likes to have fun. It's been easy for me to get acclimated real fast,''
Blake Griffin had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who lost their fifth straight and eighth in nine games. Randy Foye scored 23 points, newly acquired Mo Williams had 16, and Chris Kamen 12.
''We couldn't slow him (Thornton) down,'' Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''We tried to keep him in an area, trap him on pick and rolls, but he was really aggressive. He was making shots, taking it to the basket, and got to the free-throw line. He hurt us tonight.''
Udrih had 19 points and seven assists for the Kings, who were coming off a 2-5 road trip where they suffered several lopsided losses.
Slumping rookie DeMarcus Cousins had just five points and nine rebounds in a reserve role.
Williams connected on a 3-pointer, but Thornton responded with a pair of free throws to give the Kings a 100-97 lead with 31.7 seconds left. The Clippers misfired on several 3-point attempts in the final 20 seconds.
''The last five or six minutes they really took it to us,'' Williams said. ''Our turnovers (21) got the crowd into the game. They got some easy ones.''
Foye hit a 3-pointer to cut the Sacramento lead to 98-94, but DeAndre Jordan missed four straight free throws, the final two with 1:32 remaining, that could have cut into the Kings' lead even further.
NOTES: Kings G Tyreke Evans missed his seventh straight game due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... Clippers G Eric Gordon, who has missed 18 consecutive games with a wrist injury, said prior to the game he could return Wednesday in a home game against Houston. ... Jamario Moon, who was acquired along with Williams from Cleveland, played his first game as a Clipper. ... Griffin had 14 first-half points, helping the Clippers to a 52-51 lead.