Kirilenko had blocked 10 shots but had drifted toward the basket looking for another one. He couldn’t recover to Wells as the Kings’ guard sank a wide-open 3-pointer with 1:37 remaining to key Sacramento’s 91-89 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
“Andrei is very long and very active, blocking shots. Luckily I made him pay when he left me open in the corner,” said Wells, who scored 23 points in his first start since Dec. 19.
Mike Bibby scored 24 points and had eight assists, including the passes that led to the Kings’ final two baskets.
“We talked about going to the basket and finding people out on the perimeter because they are going to be open. That’s why Bonzi got open on that 3, because Kirilenko left him to go help on the ball,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said.
Wells has missed 30 games this season with a torn groin but found himself in the right place when the game was on the line.
“I’m just trying to get back into a rhythm after missing so many games. My teammates had confidence to come to me down the stretch, and luckily, I made the baskets,” said Wells of his seven fourth-quarter points.
Trailing 91-89, the Jazz inbounded to Matt Harpring who was open on the baseline, but he airballed an 18-footer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
“When I let it go, I knew it wasn’t in. I was kind of surprised. I had a good look. I just missed it,” Harpring said.
With the win, the Kings moved three games in front of the Jazz for the final playoff slot.
“Every win from here on out is big for us. We knew Utah was right behind us, and this would have been a devastating loss for us if we would have lost this one,” Bibby said.
Instead, it was the Jazz who were devastated as they wasted Kirilenko’s second career triple-double of 15 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
Kirilenko is “just so good off the ball, he’s so active and he’s all over the floor. If he’s not guarding you, you have to expect he’s going to be there,” Adelman said.
Deron Williams made a layup for Utah before Kenny Thomas stole the ball and Brad Miller scored on a drive for a 90-87 edge with 48 seconds left. Carlos Boozer, who missed two free throws with 38.6 seconds left, scored on a putback with 1.8 seconds left to make it 90-89.
Bibby made one of two free throws with 0.8 left before Harpring’s final miss. Miller and Thomas chipped in 11 each for the Kings who had lost three of four games after winning five in a row. Since falling a season-worst eight games under .500 with an 89-79 loss on Feb. 3, the Kings have rallied to claim the No. 8 seed in the West.
Boozer had 19 points and 16 rebounds. Devin Brown scored 17 points for Utah, which committed 21 turnovers and made just 20-of-36 free throws. The Jazz have now dropped six of their last eight games.
“It went crazy—throwing the ball away, turning the basketball over, not playing like we’re supposed to play. You can’t play a streak game like that against a team that knows how to play the pass,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.
Behind Mike Bibby’s 14 first-quarter points, the Kings raced out to a 13-point lead. The Kings did not trail until the third quarter when the Jazz scored the first six points of the half, capped by Kirilenko’s fast-break dunk.
The Kings responded with an 11-2 run and only trailed again for a one-minute stretch midway through the fourth quarter. The last time the Kings visited Utah, they led 67-55 entering the fourth quarter but shot 0-for-20 in the final period.
This time the Kings made just enough plays to turn back the Jazz for the 10th time in the last 12 games of the series. The Kings claimed the season series with the Jazz, 3-1, and hold the tiebreaker if they are deadlocked at the end of the season.
“We needed it bad. Bonzi stepped it up and hit a huge shot. It wasn’t technically a game-winner but it was a big shot,” Bibby said.
Guard Kevin Martin, who has started the last 41 games for the Kings, missed the game with a strained right thigh. … Ron Artest got a technical foul for flailing his elbows (dead ball contact) after Harpring fouled him hard in the third quarter. … Mehmet Okur grabbed the 2,000th rebound of his NBA career in the second quarter.