Kings 105, Hornets 99
Ron Artest scored 20 points and tied a career high with nine assists, leading the revived Kings to a 105-99 victory over the Hornets for their third straight win.
It was another frustrating evening for the Hornets, who lost for the 11th straight time at Arco Arena, where they haven’t won since Jan. 12, 1997, when the team was based in Charlotte.
After struggling earlier this season in front of their typically boisterous home crowd, the Kings have suddenly gotten hot, winning four straight at home.
“This is our court and we feel like we have a great home-court advantage,” said Kings assistant Scott Brooks, who won his second straight game in place of head coach Eric Musselman, who was serving a two-game suspension for driving under the influence. “When the crowd is behind us, it gives us that extra lift.”
The Kings got another one from Mike Bibby, who has been mired in a shooting slump for much of the season. The veteran point guard got to the game three hours early and was working on his shot.
The practice apparently paid off for Bibby, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter. Bibby shot 7-of-12 and also had six assists.
“Mike has been having a difficult time, so it was nice to see him have a game like this,” said Artest, who also contributed six rebounds and five steals.
Despite shooting 52.6 percent overall, Bibby and the Kings eventually cooled off, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Hornets cut the lead to 91-90 at the midway point.
Although they didn’t have a basket over the final 5:51 of the game, the Kings made enough free throws down the stretch to hold off the Hornets, who owned a 20-18 edge in the fourth period.
“We fought back in the second half and made a game of it,” Bobby Jackson said. “We didn’t give up, but we just couldn’t finish the game.”
Chris Paul had 24 points, six assists and five steals for the Hornets, who could get no closer than three points in the final five minutes as their two-game winning streak was snapped.
The Kings’ last three victories have come against teams they are battling for what appears to be the final two Western Conference playoff spots.
“We come in here every day already focused on the standings,” Martin said. “These past three games that we have won we knew were crucial because they were all teams that are in front of us in four conference. We feel like they are 2-for-1 games.”
With the Hornets trailing by 13 points at the half, Paul got going offensively, making a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 11 points to help them pull to 87-79 entering the fourth quarter.
Bibby had 16 first-half points for the Kings, who shot 59 percent and took a 63-50 lead into intermission.
“Especially on the road, you can’t get down 40-26 and expect to win the game,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “We just didn’t start the game well and that’s the job of the starters. We weren’t very focused at the beginning of the game.” ^Notes: Jackson, an Arco fan favorite when he was a King, heard boos after kicking the shoe of John Salmons, who lost his left shoe running down the court in transition during the fourth quarter. The Kings made 17 of 22 shots in the opening quarter and led 40-24. … Former Kings star Peja Stojakovic watched the game in street clothes. He has missed the Hornets last 35 games after having surgery on his lower back.