Carter, who had missed 23 games with a strained right knee, scored 22 points in his return as the Toronto Raptors snapped a five-game losing streak with a 101-97 victory over the Kings.
“I just love to play,” Carter said. “That’s what it’s all about, not about anything else. It’s not about the money, it’s not about who has a name, who has this. I’ve grow up playing basketball. I’ve grown up loving to play basketball, watching it and studying it, and there’s no better feeling that going out there and playing.”
“Getting a guy back who averages 19 points a game, you start winning some of these games we’ve been losing by three or four points,” Raptors forward Jerome Williams said. “Today he showed how important he is. He came in and we won.”
Sacramento, the Pacific Division leader, capped a 1-2 road trip with back-to-back losses to Eastern Conference lightweights Atlanta and Toronto.
“We’re just not playing the way we are capable of playing,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. “It’s pretty obvious and frustrating when you lose by four and you don’t play even close to what you are capable of. I don’t know the reason; it seems like we have no energy.”
“It is alarming,” said Kings forward Peja Stojakovic, who scored just 10 points on 2-of-10 shooting. “We haven’t lost three in a row this year, so we have to go home and play a Kings game against Utah on Tuesday.”
After Carter, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, hit a jumper 15 seconds later to give the Raptors a six-point advantage, Webber hit only 1-of-2 free throws with 1:13 to play and missed a pair with 56 seconds left.
Mike Bibby and Carter exchanged pairs of free throws before Jimmy Jackson nailed a 3-pointer to get the Kings within 99-97 with 8.9 seconds left. But Carter calmly sank two from the stripe a second later to cap the scoring.
“I felt that (Carter) was so pumped up that he’d make a good move to the basket and get fouled, or if they did start fouling, that he’d make his free throws,” said Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens, who joined Philadelphia’s Larry Brown as the only coaches in NBA history to record 100 wins with four different teams. “We felt real good about it and we wanted to have guys on the floor that could do that.”
Mo Peterson contributed 17 points and Williams 12 and 14 rebounds for the Raptors, who shot 44 percent (42-of-96) from the field and limited the Kings to 39 percent (35-of-89).
“I’m excited to beat a team like Sacramento, and words can’t even express (it),” Peterson said. “Everybody played hard, everybody played together and I’m real proud of our team.”
Bibby scored a season-high 30 points and Webber added 24, 19 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season and 17th career.
“It was just rally frustrating for me because I am part of the team and we are all struggling,” said Webber, whose team has lost all three games this season in which he has posted a triple-double. “It was a team effort, so it hurts.”
The Raptors led by nine points on two occasions early in the third quarter before the Kings rallied to tie the game, 74-74, entering the fourth quarter.
Toronto reserve Michael Bradley, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in just 11 minutes, put the Raptors ahead for good, 78-76, on a running jumper 1:21 into the final period. Bradley had missed the team’s previous 11 games with a disk injury in his lower back.
“Michael’s had some really good practices and we knew we were going to limit his minutes, but he’s been very aggressive in practice,” Wilkens said. “I’ve been really pleased.”
The Raptors recorded a season-high 29 assists and committed just just eight turnovers. The Kings were almost as sharp with 22 assists and only 10 turnovers.
Kings center Vlade Divac, who scored just four points on 2-of-8 shooting, left the game with 6:14 remaining and did not return.