Kings 86, Nets 81
A youthful team with some major defensive deficiencies through the first 10 games of the season, the Sacramento Kings were crediting defense as a difference-maker after snapping a six-game losing streak Friday night.
Tyreke Evans scored 20 points and Beno Udrih connected on a huge 3-pointer in the closing seconds to give the struggling Kings an 86-81 victory over the New Jersey Nets, who were held to 35 second-half points.
Any win is a good one for the Kings, who also ended a five-game skid at home, avoiding their first 0-6 stretch at Arco Arena since an eight-game slide from Nov. 11 to Dec. 6, 2008. Sacramento looked headed for another loss, trailing at halftime for the 11th straight time this season.
''There was a lot of pressure on us, especially playing really bad on our home court,'' Udrih said. ''Now we have that taste of winning again.''
Searching for a cohesive defensive unit, Kings coach Paul Westphal inserted Donte Greene into the lineup, his fifth starting group through 11 games. Greene had some solid moments at the defensive end and so did the Kings, who held Brook Lopez, the Nets' second-leading scorer, to seven points. Leading scorer Devin Harris wasn't much better, shooting 3 of 12 and scoring 10 points.
Sacramento had allowed the three previous opponents to shoot 52 percent and looked awful on Wednesday night, when the New York Knicks used a 40-point second quarter to beat the Kings 113-106.
''We put together 44 good minutes of defense tonight,'' Westphal said. ''We had a little lull there in the second quarter, but for the most part I thought we won the game with our defense.''
It didn't hurt that the Kings finally made a big shot in a close game. Travis Outlaw hit a jumper following a timeout to cut the Kings' lead to 83-81 with 27 seconds remaining. But with the shot clock running down, Udrih made a 3-pointer for an 86-81 lead with 3.4 seconds left.
''They were double-teaming (Evans) and then he found Luther (Head), they rotated and I was wide open,'' said Udrih, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Head for the second straight game. ''So Luther passed to me. I knew there were two seconds on the shot clock. It was a good pass and a good shot.''
Kris Humphries had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony Morrow scored 17 points and Outlaw 13 for the Nets. New Jersey lost its second straight and has dropped eight of 10 since starting the season 2-0 for the first time tine in eight seasons.
''It was a tough loss,'' Humphries said. ''We've been able to hold teams below their shooting percentage, but we haven't been able to put points on the board. We are really taking a long time to get into our offense.''
Nets coach Avery Johnson said the Nets executed well on Sacramento's final possession.
''The plan was to get the ball at a certain point out of Tyreke's hand because we were having problems with him all night,'' Johnson said. ''We did exactly what we wanted to do. When we got to Udrih the shot clock was down, we just didn't do a good job of taking away the shot.''
Carl Landry scored 15 points, Udrih had 12 and Head added 10 for Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who lost at New Jersey the second game of the season.
''These are the ones we've got to win,'' Lopez said. ''We've been good as a team, but we just have let a few get away. It's just frustrating right now. Both Devin and I didn't have a good game.''
Evans began the game shooting 1 of 8, then got going late in the first half, surprisingly making shots from the perimeter, where he has struggled throughout his brief NBA career.
Evans helped put the Kings on top 64-63 heading into the fourth quarter. Last year's Rookie of the Year scored nine points in the third, when Sacramento outscored the Nets 21-17.
Morrow and Humphries both had 12 points in the opening half to put the Nets in front 46-43. New Jersey used a 19-4 run in the second quarter to erase an eight-point deficit. Landry had 10 points for the Kings.
Notes: In the battle of two highly touted rookie post players, Cousins drew an offensive foul late in the first quarter against Derrick Favors. Neither player was a factor. Favors scored three points. ... Nets reserve Quinton Ross suffered a calf strain in the first half and didn't return. ... Harris missed seven of eight shots before hitting a jumper midway through the third quarter, then was promptly taken out of the game.