For the first time in 17 years, Sacramento has a winning team again.
Domantas Sabonis had 24 points and 21 rebounds, and the Kings clinched their first winning season since 2005-06 by beating the Brooklyn Nets 101-96 on Thursday night.
De’Aaron Fox added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Kings, who improved to 42-27, second in the Western Conference. They hadn’t finished above .500 since going 44-38 in 2005-06, the last of eight consecutive playoff appearances under Rick Adelman.
The Kings have had a losing record in the other 29 seasons since moving to Sacramento but are in good shape to end the NBA‘s longest current postseason drought in their first season under Mike Brown.
‘I think being here for over four years now, and seeing the bottom – the very bottom – and to see the frustration of fans and the people in the organization, I think it´s nice to be on the other side it,’ veteran Harrison Barnes said. ‘A lot of people, they don´t get a chance to stay in an organization long enough to see the good times and the bad, they just see the bad side. So I consider myself fortunate to be able to be part of this moment.’
Sacramento Kings’ Domantas Sabonis drives to the basket during game against the Nets
The Kings improved to 10-2 since the All-Star break by turning to their defense on a night their usually potent offense stalled while playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They won Wednesday in Chicago when Fox’s 3-pointer gave them a 117-114 victory.
Sacramento held Brooklyn without any second-chance points and just two fast-break points with some defensive possessions that Brown said were among the best he’d seen all season.
‘And to see that again in this situation, a back-to-back, was really, really encouraging,’ Brown said, ‘because we´re going to have to win games like this come playoff time.’
Yes, it’s safe to talk playoffs again in California’s capital.
Sabonis had 20 points by halftime and the Kings led by as much as 17, but the Nets made it close.
Mikal Bridges scored 23 points for the Nets, who fell 1 1/2 games behind the New York Knicks for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and are just 1 1/2 ahead of seventh-place Miami as they try to avoid the play-in tournament.
Spencer Dinwiddie added 18 points and Nic Claxton had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets, back in Brooklyn after going 3-2 on their road trip and hoping to capitalize on a home-heavy schedule the rest of the way. Nine of their remaining 12 games are at Barclays Center.
It was tied at 41 with under 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half before Sabonis converted a three-point play. That kicked off a 13-0 finish for the Kings, with Fox’s jumper making it 54-41 at the break.
‘They were just playing harder and getting stops and they were just scoring, getting to the line,’ Bridges said. ‘But yeah, they just played harder than us.’
A three-point play by Barnes followed by a 3-pointer from Fox pushed it to 60-43, but the Nets would recover with a 10-0 spurt later in the third to trim it to six points. Sacramento went on to take an 82-71 advantage to the fourth.
Sabonis (10) protects the ball from Brooklyn Nets’ Cameron Johnson (2) and Mikal Bridges
PACERS 139, BUCKS 123
Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points and Aaron Nesmith hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points as the Indiana Pacers rallied late and beat the Central Division and Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks 139-123 Thursday night.
Indiana (32-38) shot 22 for 46 from 3-point distance, including 13 of 19 in the second half, and shot 56.5% overall despite playing without All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton (ankle), as well as guards Kendall Brown, Chris Duarte and Trevelin Queen.
The absences didn´t seem to matter as Indiana had seven players score in double-figures. Buddy Hield scored 20 and T.J. McConnell 19, while George HIll and Jordan Nwora added 15 and 12, respectively, against their former team.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 25 points. Jrue Holiday added 19 and Khris Middleton finished with 16 for Milwaukee (50-20), which shot 52.8%, went 11 for 32 from beyond the arc and gave up 13 points off 12 turnovers.
Pacers Myles Turner (33) dunks over Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34)
NUGGETS 119, PISTONS 100
Nikola Jokic scored 30 points and Denver beat Detroit to snap a season-high four-game losing streak and clinched the Northwest Division.
Jokic, the two-time reigning NBA MVP, had three assists and three rebounds before his first attempt several minutes into the game and finished 14 of 18 from the field with 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points, Jamal Murray had 19 and Aaron Gordon 15 for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets.
Rodney McGruder scored 20 for the Pistons, who have lost 12 of 13 games and have the NBA´s worst record. Detroit rookies Jalen Duren had 15 points and 13 assists, while Jaden Ivey added 14 points and six assists.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Detroit Pistons center James Wiseman (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
RAPTORS 128, THUNDER 111
Pascal Siakam had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Toronto extended its season-high home winning streak to six games with a win over Oklahoma City.
Jakob Poeltl had his third straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors. Gary Trent Jr. added 23 points and Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes each had 19. O.G. Anunoby added 17 points.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 29 points and Jalen Williams had 15 for the Thunder, who came in having won three straight and six of seven. Oklahoma City is 13-21 on the road. Josh Giddey scored 13 points, Tre Mann and Isaiah Joe each had 12 and Luguentz Dort scored 10 points for the Thunder.
Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors drives to the basket against the Denver Nuggets
SUNS 116, MAGIC 113
Josh Okogie made a go-ahead 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter and blocked Paolo Banchero’s attempt at a tying 3 in the final seconds as the Phoenix Suns held on to beat the Orlando Magic 116-113 Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
Devin Booker led Phoenix with 19 points. Cameron Payne scored 18 points, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul each had 16 and Okogie finished with 15. The Suns made all 17 of their free throws in the game.
Markelle Fultz scored 25 points, Banchero added 18 and Cole Anthony 17 for Orlando. Franz Wagner had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Wendell Carter Jr. also scored 16 points.
Josh Okogie #2 celebrates with Damion Lee #10 of the Phoenix Suns after defeating the Magic