Kings 107, Jazz 103
Relying primarily on the versatile Salmons down the stretch, the Kings outscored Utah 32-21 in the fourth quarter, to snap a four-game losing streak.
“To make a long story short, we couldn’t stop them in the fourth quarter,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “We had the ball a couple of times coming down the stretch there to finish the ballgame and we weren’t able to. I thought they got whatever they wanted every possession.”
The Kings had lost five of their previous six games at Arco Arena, where they will finish with their worst home record since the 1997-98 season.
“We came out and played like a team tonight,” Martin said. “John was terrific. He took over the game in the fourth. He’s a veteran player, that’s what he has the ability to do.”
While the victory kept the Kings’ slim playoff hopes alive, Utah remains perplexed over its struggles on the road, where they have dropped eight of nine games and are 19-20 overall.
“It seems like every loss is a little different on the road,” said Matt Harpring, who had trouble guarding Salmons late in the game. “Tonight we couldn’t make shots and they made plays down the stretch. Salmons played really well.”
Not only did the loss continue Utah’s road problems, the Jazz failed to increase their lead over Houston in the battle for fourth place in the Western Conference.
Fifth-place Houston lost to Portland, and remained 1 1/2 games behind Utah. The Jazz and Houston will likely meet in the opening round of the playoffs, and the fourth-place team will have home-court advantage.
Williams is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game in Seattle and Jazz officials said Kirilenko’s status is unknown.
Utah led by 17 points midway through the third quarter. Carried by the efforts of reserves Ronnie Price and Salmons, the Kings got back in the game.
Salmons drove past Harpring and made a layup in traffic with 58 seconds left to put the Kings ahead for good at 101-100.
On Sacramento’s next possession, Salmons was fouled by Harpring and converted two free throws for a three-point lead. Martin followed with four straight from the line in the final 12 seconds as Sacramento ran off 10 straight points to seal the victory.
“This one was just for our morale, winning always feels good,” Salmons said. “We came out and played hard and got a win against a quality team.”
“I had to step it up with Bibby on the bench,” said Salmons, who made 6 of 7 shots and all five free throws. “Coach called my name a couple of times and I just took it from there.”
Utah started the game by making its first 10 shots and led 36-28 after one quarter. … Giricek matched his season high with 12 first-half points. … The Kings won the season series 2-1 and avenged a home loss early in November when the Jazz rallied from 21 points down to get the victory.