SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Down three starters and behind by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Sacramento Kings tried to foul their way back into the game.
It almost worked.
Derrick Favors had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Marvin Williams added 16 points and 11 rebounds, and the Jazz held off the depleted Kings 106-99 on Monday night.
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”If you build a lead like that then it’s easier when you have some lapses down the stretch. You have a little room for error,” Utah forward Gordon Hayward said.
Enes Kanter added 16 points and Jeremy Evans tied a career high with 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Jazz took advantage of injuries that have left Sacramento without frontcourt starters DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for the past three games.
”We had a size advantage so we wanted to mix up plays with the pick-and-rolls. I thought the two guys, Derrick and Enes, did a good job of getting in low position and made some good passes when they didn’t have a chance to make a play for themselves,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.
In addition to Cousins and Gay being out, Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas left in the third quarter with an illness.
”Some of our guys were like, `Oh boy, what are we going to do now?’ Now we have Isaiah, Rudy and DeMarcus all out. It was shellshock,” Sacramento coach Mike Malone said.
The Kings resorted to Plan B – foul as much as possible – and that shocked the Jazz.
”I’m going to do everything I can to extend the game and give us a chance to win. They were having their way with us, but we always try to identify certain guys who may be poor free throw shooters,” Malone said.
After the Jazz sent their starters to the bench with the game seemingly in hand, the Kings mounted an unlikely comeback that fell just short. Sacramento trimmed a 20-point lead to five in the final minute but came up empty on three of its final four possessions.
”Whew, that was closer than it needed to be,” Evans said.
Jason Thompson scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Kings, who lost their fourth consecutive game. Derrick Williams had 17 points and 15 boards.
The Jazz set an NBA season high with 53 free throw attempts. Utah went 12 for 25 at the line in the fourth quarter, allowing the Kings to make things interesting.
Sacramento, whistled for 36 fouls, began hacking Utah’s surprised reserves midway through the fourth quarter.
”I wasn’t expecting that at all. I feel a little disrespected. I missed some and that messed me up mentally,” said Evans, who came into the game shooting 73 percent from the line.
The Jazz took control in the third with a 17-7 run that was capped by seven straight points from Marvin Williams. His free throws gave Utah an 81-67 lead with 1:36 left in the period.
The Jazz stretched the lead to 20 as both teams played backups in the fourth quarter. The Kings started intentionally fouling big men Rudy Gobert and Evans, who were a combined 7 of 16 from the line.
The scheme worked, and Ben McLemore’s three-point play brought the Kings to 104-99 with 31 seconds to play. John Lucas III made one of two free throws and Diante Garrett split a pair of foul shots to finally put the Kings away.
”We really competed in the fourth quarter. That’s all you can do, especially when you have three starters out,” Derrick Williams said.
Cousins missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle and Gay warmed up his strained left Achilles but felt he couldn’t go and was scratched from the lineup just before the opening tip.
Utah shot 40 percent from the field but still moved ahead of the Kings in the standings.
”It’s a good feeling for us to move out of last place in the West. It’s a step forward for us as a team,” Hayward said.
Thomas averaged 27.6 points over the previous five games but mustered only 10 on 4-of-13 shooting. He vomited at halftime and played just 8 minutes in the second half because of his stomach ailment. His streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer ended at 37, two short of Mitch Richmond’s franchise record.
NOTES: The Kings were given a delay of game warning for not getting to center court for the opening tip in time. … McLemore poked Evans in the eye as he drove to the hoop. Evans missed both free throws while squinting at the basket. … Kings G Jimmer Fredette, who played at nearby BYU, received loud cheers when he scored and boos when he brought the ball up the court. He finished with eight points. … Sacramento outscored the Jazz 52-38 in the paint despite the absence of Cousins and Gay.