Kings 103, Jazz 96

The Kings not only have a future in Sacramento, it appears they
have discovered their future point guard as well in rookie Isaiah
Thomas.

The hustling Thomas sparked a second-half surge and DeMarcus
Cousins had 22 points and 18 rebounds for the Kings, who celebrated
a possible new arena deal with a 103-96 victory over the struggling
Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

The city, the Kings and the NBA announced a tentative deal
Monday to finance a new arena that would be built by 2015 and keep
the team in Sacramento for many years, quieting talk that the
franchise would be moving to Anaheim or Seattle at the end of the
season. The City Council will vote on the plan March 6.

It was the 5-foot-9 Thomas firing up the crowd and his teammates
after a lackluster first half by the Kings. The rookie from
Washington did his thing, getting the team in running mode with his
speed and quickness. Quiet in the opening half with three points,
he finished with 18 points and eight assists, including nine points
in the fourth quarter.

”I had to pick up the tempo, not just for myself, but for my
teammates,” Thomas said. ”We needed to get out in transition and
run. I’m out there trying to make the right play. I’m doing that at
a pretty high level right now.”

Thomas, the last player chosen in the 2011 draft, started his
fifth straight game. He has scored 96 points in those five games to
tie a franchise mark set by Otis Birdsong in 1977.

”We did a pretty good job on him early by keeping him out of
the paint,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”But in the second
half he got away from us. He got in the paint and made a couple of
scores, and he got a three-point play.”

Perhaps getting the loudest ovation Tuesday were the Kings’
owners, who addressed the crowd regarding the decision one day
earlier to keep the club in Sacramento.

The Kings almost moved to Anaheim a year ago before Sacramento
Mayor Kevin Johnson, city leaders, and fan groups convinced the NBA
to give Sacramento one last chance to help finance an arena. The
team has been trying to get an arena deal for 13 years, according
to owner Gavin Maloof.

Johnson was in the spirited crowd of 13,896. A former standout
NBA point guard, he and Thomas are now casual friends.

”Having guys like Kevin Johnson and the Maloofs (owners Joe and
Gavin) at the game made it a little more exciting,” said Thomas,
who shot 6 of 12, hit two 3-pointers and converted all four free
throws. ”You want to win for guys like that.”

Marcus Thornton scored 21 points and made five of six free
throws in the final 16 seconds to help the Kings secure the
victory. Tyreke Evans scored 13 and Jason Thompson had 10 points
and eight rebounds.

Thornton was pleased to get the second half of the season off to
a good start and reward the city’s loyal fans.

”To hear that news yesterday that the team was staying, I’m so
happy for our fans,” Thornton said. ”The Sacramento Kings are
here to stay for a long time.”

Devin Harris scored 18 and had seven assists for Utah, which has
dropped four straight and nine of 10. Josh Howard had 15 points, CJ
Miles 13 and Al Jefferson added 12 and eight rebounds.

”We got caught up in their style of play instead of playing our
style – slow tempo and running our offense,” Jefferson said. ”We
started taking quick shots and that’s what they wanted us to do.
It’s getting old and getting frustrating.”

A basket from close range by Howard brought the Jazz to 98-96
with 1:08 remaining. After Gordon Hayward missed a 3-pointer from
the corner, Thornton was fouled and made both attempts for a 100-96
Kings lead with 16.1 seconds left.

Thomas tied the game at 87 with two free throws. John Salmons
put the Kings ahead for good with a layup and Cousins scored four
points, concluding an 8-0 run that gave Sacramento a 93-87 lead
with 4:35 left.

”I think as he grows as a pro there’s going to be a lot of
nights where people won’t have an answer for him,” Kings coach
Keith Smart said. ”I think our guys now are starting to see that
we can go to him at different spots on the floor.”

NOTES: Corbin spent most of the 1995-96 season playing for the
Kings and said he was very happy to see the franchise remain in
Sacramento. … After several turnovers, frustrated rookie Jimmer
Fredette was coming out of the game midway through the second
quarter. However, before another dead ball situation could occur,
Fredette hit a long 3-pointer and made a pinpoint pass to Chuck
Hayes for a layup. Following a Kings timeout, Thomas went back to
the bench and Fredette remained in the game. He finished with five
points and two assists in 8 second-quarter minutes. … Utah
second-year forward Jeremy Evans, the NBA slam dunk champion,
didn’t play. … The Jazz are 3-12 on the road.