SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—Kenny Thomas’ dunk 28 seconds into the fourth quarter clearly had a little extra oomph behind it.
Ron Artest scored nine points despite a bruised hip for the Kings, who rebounded just fine from a humiliating 0-for-20 shooting performance Friday in the fourth quarter in Salt Lake City. They managed 12 points on free throws while blowing a 12-point lead in an 89-79 defeat.
This time, the Kings went 11-for-19 from the field while finishing off the Jazz on both ends of the court. They’ve still got all the inconsistency to be expected from their oft-shuffled roster, but the Kings are trying to get it together.
Sacramento hasn’t lost at home since Jan. 8, but is 1-6 on the road in that stretch.
“It’s like when you smoke cigarettes, you’ve got to take that nicotine patch and break that habit,” Artest said after his fifth game in Sacramento. “We’ve got a habit of losing right now. We need to get, like, a nicotine winning patch. We’ve got to break that habit of losing, because it can become a habit. … We’re working hard to break that habit.”
Thomas, who scored 10 points and led a strong rebounding game with nine rebounds, made sure the Kings wouldn’t repeat the debacle on their opening possession. Rookie Francisco Garcia, who had X-rays on his hand at halftime, added consecutive 3-pointers to stretch Sacramento’s lead to 73-58.
They never let up in the final minutes of their fifth straight home victory. Garcia scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, and his impressive defense included a career-high five blocked shots.
“I’m just trying to do my best and just play a lot of defense,” Garcia said. “I know Coach wants me to shoot more open shots, and I’m trying to get better at it. It felt good on both ends tonight.”
Mehmet Okur had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Jazz, who have lost four of six. They had their own offensive issues this time, going scoreless for nearly 6 minutes in the second quarter before falling irretrievably behind when they couldn’t score in the first 3:45 of the fourth.
“We gave them everything they needed to get their game going and win the ballgame,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “They came up and put the pressure on us, and we turned the ball over a little bit, and then we got real casual. There was no execution.”
“I don’t know how he played and fought through it,” coach Rick Adelman said. “(On Saturday) he wasn’t even walking very good. He came in, and they were just amazed how spry he was.”
Bibby hit two of Sacramento’s 10 3-pointers, while Martin had another strong outing in Wells’ absence, attacking the basket and going 7-for-9. The second-year guard might be edging out Wells, a soon-to-be free agent, in Sacramento’s plans for next season.
Miller sat out his third straight game with a broken right thumb, while Wells rested his torn groin muscle again after playing in the last two games. Wells missed 19 games before his return last Tuesday.
Adelman went with a physical lineup in Miller’s absence, giving key playing time to veterans Corliss Williamson and Brian Skinner. Skinner provided eight points in the fourth quarter and heady defense against Okur, who wasn’t his usual effective self.
“Their big guys were active today and were pushing us out of the lane,” Okur said. “In the fourth quarter, I don’t know what happened. We stopped playing defense, and at the same time, we took the early shots.”
Williamson hit the fifth 3-pointer of his career in the final seconds of the first quarter, improving to 5-for-41 in his 11 NBA seasons. … Referee Bernie Fryer hit Shareef Abdur-Rahim with a technical foul in the first quarter for nothing more than a vehement hand gesture. Abdur-Rahim’s broken jaw makes verbal arguments rather difficult. … Utah G Gordan Giricek missed his third straight game with a left ankle injury. He didn’t travel to Sacramento. … The Kings have won just four of 26 games when scoring fewer than 100 points.