Kings 100, Rockets 95

Preview | Box Score | Recap

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—The fans booed their team. Chris Webber had a terrible shooting game. Steve Francis cursed on live television.

From the All-Stars to the ushers, everybody seemed frustrated in Sacramento—until one beautiful shot by Vlade Divac fixed everything for the Kings.

Peja Stojakovic scored 29 points and leaped into Divac’s arms after the center’s first 3-pointer of the season with 41 seconds to play, clinching the Kings’ 100-95 come-from-behind victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

Until Divac beat the shot clock with a perfect rainbow 3, there was nothing pretty about the Kings’ sixth straight home victory. Houston led nearly all of the first 3 1/2 quarters with its defense-oriented game, and the Kings struggled to find any rhythm in their usually dynamic offense.

But Divac never lost faith in the Kings (51-19), who needed a victory to stay ahead of Indiana (50-19) for the NBA’s best record. Sacramento closed with an 18-7 run—and no basket was more important than his 3-pointer, which capped the Kings’ second straight comeback from a 17-point deficit.

“When I shot the ball, I really felt pretty good,” Divac said. “Most of the time, I don’t feel good about those shots. Usually, they’re airballs.”

Divac scored five of his 17 points in the final two minutes as Sacramento roared from behind. Webber capped a terrible shooting game with a key assist and a steal—but he shot 4-for-18, and for the second time since his comeback from knee surgery and an eight-game suspension, Sacramento’s loyal fans booed him several times.

“That’s life,” Webber said. “You come back after 10 months, you’re hurt, and they want to ride you like that, what can you do? It’s definitely changing my focus, changing my outlook.”

Maurice Taylor scored 23 points and Francis had 17 for the Rockets, who lost their 10th consecutive game in Sacramento and third straight overall. Yao Ming had 11 points and nine rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.

Francis had a frustrating game, earning his NBA-leading 17th technical foul even before a non-call in the closing seconds of the first half. When an ESPN reporter approached him for a halftime interview, Francis cursed at least twice and stormed off the court.

Francis apologized shortly before the third quarter began, but the three-time All-Star might face a suspension. The NBA set a precedent on such actions by suspending Shaquille O’Neal for a game last month when he cursed in a postgame interview with a Los Angeles station—and Francis’ blue language was heard by millions more viewers.

Francis didn’t comment on his outburst.

“You want every game, and this is definitely one of the games that we let slip away,” Francis said. “Hopefully we can learn a lesson from this, that execution is very important, because I don’t think we executed late.”

Sacramento took an 89-88 lead on Anthony Peeler’s 3-pointer with 4:27 left, capping a 9-2 run. Houston went back ahead on Jim Jackson’s 3-pointer, but Webber made one free throw, then hit Divac with a wraparound pass for a layup with 1:46 left, giving Sacramento the lead for good.

“We were not at our best when we needed our best,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “We missed a lot of layups. … We have to have more resolve, and we don’t have resolve to finish right now.”

The Kings also got a new injury worry: Brad Miller scored just two points in 18 minutes, before sitting out most of the fourth quarter with acute bursitis in his right elbow. Miller, the Kings’ two-time All-Star who’s been a reserve since Webber’s return, was held scoreless until a dunk in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

A team spokesman said Miller is expected to play Tuesday against Milwaukee.

Notes

Sacramento G Bobby Jackson missed his 17th straight game with a strained abdominal muscle. There’s still no definite timetable for Jackson, the NBA’s top sixth man last season despite missing 21 games with a broken hand. … Both coaches essentially used seven-man rotations. Charles Oakley played just one minute, but got his second rebound since signing with Houston onThursday. … Divac had six 3-pointers last season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Houston
J. Jackson J. Jackson
4-13,  13 Pts
11 Rebs, 8 Assists
 Sacramento
C. Webber C. Webber
4-18,  13 Pts
15 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists