Kings 107, Knicks 99

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—While New York’s Tim Thomas warned the Sacramento Kings about the dangers of bad defense, rookie Darius Songaila showed the value of simple persistence.

Mike Bibby scored 28 points and Songaila had career highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds in the Kings’ seventh victory in eight games, 107-99 over the Knicks on Tuesday night.

With just 10 players in uniform and three stars out of the lineup, Sacramento played terrible defense and had almost no inside game. Thomas got an embarrassing number of open shots while scoring a season-high 33 points.

But the Kings still stretched their NBA-record home winning streak against the Eastern Conference to 29 games, largely thanks to the dogged efforts of Songaila, who played 43 minutes and held his own against New York’s larger frontcourt.

“If he can do that for us, we don’t miss the guys who are out as much,” said Peja Stojakovic, who scored 27 points. “He was all over the court tonight, on offense and defense. He played hard, and everybody else played harder (because of it).”

Vlade Divac had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Kings, who improved the NBA’s best record to 41-14 despite playing without All-Star Brad Miller, Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson.

Songaila picked up the slack, crashing the boards relentlessly and providing a defensive spark. He got two key offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter as Sacramento held on.

“I can’t even imagine those guys that are playing 30-40 minutes a night,” Songaila said. “With Brad being out, we need to bring that intensity on the boards, because he’s our leading rebounder. I’m just trying to go after the boards on every possession.”

In the opener of the Knicks’ four-game road trip, Thomas scored four more points than he got in his first three games combined after the Feb. 15 trade that brought him to the Knicks from Milwaukee. He made six straight shots in the second half, but he began to miss and later fouled out during Sacramento’s decisive 21-7 run in the fourth quarter.

“(Stojakovic) is the All-Star, he gets all the calls,” Thomas said. “In the first three games, I was just trying to get used to the system, the guys. Midseason trades are difficult, but it’s going to come together for us.”

Stephon Marbury had 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting and nine assists for New York, which lost for the fifth time in six games following a 9-3 start under coach Lenny Wilkens.

“We’re starting to get our chemistry back, and this will help us,” Wilkens said.

Nazr Mohammed had a season-high 15 points in his first start for New York, which has a seven-game losing streak in Sacramento since Feb. 20, 1997.

Bibby made seven of his first nine shots, scoring 16 points in the first half as the Kings kept it close. Thomas has been a profoundly streaky shooter his entire career, but he nearly shot the Knicks to an unlikely victory while scoring 20 points in the second half.

The Kings wore the retro uniforms of the 1974-75 Kansas City-Omaha Kings— and they played appropriate defense to emulate a team that allowed more than 101 points per game. The Knicks made 12 of their first 17 shots and scored 30 points in the first quarter.

Thomas struggled in the Knicks’ loss to Cleveland on Sunday, prompting New York fans to chant the name of Keith Van Horn, traded to Milwaukee for Thomas. New York’s lack of consistent outside shooting has hurt recently, but Thomas showed he could be the answer—when he’s on a good streak, that is.

“Tim had a great game,” Marbury said. “We pretty much rode him. They beatyou with offense. That’s what they did tonight.”

Notes

Webber served the fifth game of his eight-game suspension. … Miller and Knicks G Allan Houston both went through aggressive pregame workouts, but neither was ready to return from injury. Miller missed his fifth game since spraining his right foot in the All-Star game, while Houston missed his ninth straight game with a knee injury. … Jackson isn’t allowed to work out until next week at the earliest. The Kings don’t want him to aggravate his abdominal injury by coming back too soon. “It’s tough, because I usually spend a lot oftime in the gym every week,” Jackson said. “I hate it like this.”

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 New York
K. Thomas K. Thomas
4-8,  8 Pts
10 Rebs, 5 Assists
 Sacramento
D. Songaila D. Songaila
6-12,  17 Pts
13 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists