The Sacramento Kings pushed the defending champions to the brink of defeat Friday. The possible return of their star rookie could drive the Kings over the top Saturday night at Arco Arena.
The Kings (14-18) led the host Los Angeles Lakers by as many as 20 points in the first half Friday, but fell 109-108 as Kobe Bryant(notes) hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Sacramento forward Ime Udoka(notes) missed a pair of free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining with the Kings up by two.
“We got everything we needed, performance-wise, from everybody that played, and we couldn’t close it out,” said coach Paul Westphal.
Sacramento has lost three of four games this season with Evans sidelined. Prior to Friday’s loss, Evans said he would be ready to go against the Mavericks after spraining his right ankle in a 112-103 double-overtime loss to the Lakers on Dec. 26.
“It feels pretty good,” Evans told the league’s official Web site. “I had a workout Wednesday and it felt pretty good. The swelling went down. It’s still sore, but not as bad as it was (Sunday). It feels pretty good though. I’ll be ready to go.”
Evans, averaging 20.3 points per game, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists, scored 29 points with seven boards and a season-high 10 assists in a 104-102 loss to the Mavericks on Nov. 20.
The Kings defeated Dallas 102-95 on Jan. 11 of last season in the teams’ last game at Arco Arena.
After missing the last two matchups against Sacramento last season due to a broken left hand, Jason Terry(notes) had 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 20 victory. Terry, the NBA’s third-leading scorer off the bench at 16.6 points per game, paced the Southwest Division-leading Mavericks (22-10) with 20 in Thursday’s 97-94 loss at Houston.
“Our undoing was a sluggish first quarter,” said coach Rick Carlisle, whose team was outscored 24-17 in the opening 12 minutes. “Houston hit us with early transition points and 3s. The rest of the game was about even. With a team like this you have to come out with energy early or you are in trouble.”
Dirk Nowitzki(notes), among the league leaders at 25.0 points per game, has scored 11 and 13 in his last two contests. The last time he had 13 or fewer points in three straight was the final two games of 1998-99 and the first one of the following season.
Nowitzki is averaging 23.1 points in 19 career games in Sacramento.
Jason Kidd(notes), who had 15 points and 11 assists in the Nov. 20 victory over the Kings, will look for his fourth consecutive double-double in this matchup. Kidd is averaging 13.7 points and 11.3 assists during this stretch.
Sacramento has dropped three of four at home after winning 10 of its first 13 there this season.