The Sacramento Kings closed 2007 with a dismal homestand. Their first home game of the new year, however, has given them reason to be optimistic.
After snapping their skid at Arco Arena with a win over one of the NBA’s best road teams, the Kings host the Memphis Grizzlies, who haven’t won in Sacramento in nearly a decade, on Thursday.
Sacramento (13-20) played its last four games of 2007 at Arco, but was outscored by an average of 12.0 points while losing all four. The Kings shot 41.9 percent from the field and committed 18.0 turnovers per contest during the skid.
With Orlando coming to town Tuesday, the Kings appeared to be in danger of losing five straight at home for the first time since the 1997-98 season. However, five Sacramento players scored in double figures as the Kings won 104-100, sending the Magic to just their sixth loss in 21 road games.
“We know how good Orlando is on the road, they are one of the best in the league,” said John Salmons, who led the Kings with 21 points. “Our last homestand wasn’t good, so we needed this win.”
As much as they needed the win, the Kings nearly gave it away. They squandered most of their 19-point lead by committing seven turnovers and giving up 38 points in the fourth quarter.
“It kind of took the fun out of me,” Sacramento coach Reggie Theus said. “You have to have success at the end of games. I look at it in many ways, good teams are always going to make a run. So they made a run and we held them off.”
The Kings could have an easier time putting away the Grizzlies (10-24), losers of 17 straight in Sacramento since a 112-108 overtime win on April 19, 1998. That was the Memphis franchise’s only win in 23 games at Arco Arena since it began play in 1995.
Like the Kings, the Grizzlies ended 2007 on a sour note, dropping their last five games. They won two of their first three in January, but struggled defensively in a 117-101 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
“We came out sluggish,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. “We were just playing soft. We weren’t aggressive like we’ve been the first couple of games (of 2008).”
The Grizzlies were just as bad when it came to containing the Kings last season. Sacramento averaged 114.7 points in winning two of the three meetings, including a 115-111 victory at home Nov. 15.
Sacramento, though, has gotten solid contributions from its backups. Salmons is averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists as a starter, and Francisco Garcia has averaged 17.2 points and 5.8 boards in his last five games.
The Grizzlies’ Mike Miller averaged 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 53.3 percent from the field in two games against the Kings last season.