Evans, Casspi help Kings hold on to beat Wizards
Evans scored 26 points and came up with a steal and two clutch free throws in the closing seconds for the Kings, who held on for a 112-109 victory over the struggling Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
On a night when the 20-year-old Evans wouldn’t have been able to legally take advantage of dollar beer night, he thrilled an enthusiastic crowd of 16,579 instead. He had 10 fourth-quarter points and added six rebounds and six assists playing for the first time on national TV (ESPN) in his NBA career.
“There has not really been a time when this coaching staff hasn’t been amazed by this kid,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “He got a (national) stage and he showed up. We’ve got a kid that’s somebody in this league and it’s really fun to see that and have this building rocking.”
The rocking stopped momentarily when Evans was caught holding Gilbert Arenas’(notes) jersey on an inbounds play and Washington was awarded a free throw and the ball. Caron Butler(notes) made the foul shot to cut the lead to one point with 16 seconds left, but Evans quickly made up for his mistake, stealing the ball from Arenas on a crossover dribble.
“I was pretty mad they called the foul, so I wanted the ball back,” Evans said. “I was sitting on the crossover and I was able to get a hand on it.”
Evans was fouled by Arenas and hit two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to give Sacramento a 112-109 lead. Butler missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
“That’s something I dreamed, to get the ball in the end,” Evans said of the free throws. “I got the ball in my hands and made the free throws.”
“I’m a big guard in this league, but going up against him I felt little tonight,” Arenas said. “It was a great pick up for Sacramento.”
So was Kings rookie Omri Casspi(notes), like Evans another first-round pick who had a season-high 22 points in his first NBA start. Andres Nocioni(notes) scored 20 points and Jason Thompson(notes) had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Kings, who had dropped eight straight games to Washington dating to Feb. 27, 2005.
The first Israel-born player to play in the NBA, Casspi made two 3-pointers and had five rebounds, three assists and a block.
“Coach told me early in the practice facility that I would be starting. I was very excited, you dream about something like this,” Casspi said. “I felt strong, I felt ready, and things went good.”
Consecutive baskets by Arenas and a steal and dunk by Butler rallied the Wizards within 109-108 with 18 seconds left. Fouled after the inbounds play, Beno Udrih(notes) made one of two free throws for a two-point lead with two seconds later.
“We had a chance, we had the ball in Gil’s hands at the end,” said frustrated Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “We were down one and Evans made a great play and poked it away.”
The dollar beer promotion helped give the Kings their third-largest crowd of the season. Beer lines were long more than an hour before game time and probably played a factor in the crowd easily being the most boisterous to start a game this season.
Although the crowd noise continued in the second half, beer sales did not. No alcohol was sold after halftime.
Nocioni scored 10 points and Casspi had nine in the third quarter, when the Kings built a 89-80 entering the fourth. Despite being fouled on the play, Nocioni hit a 3-pointer and added a free throw for a rare four-point play that broke a 76-all tie and ignited a 13-4 run to end the period for the Kings, who never trailed again.
A basket and two free throws by Arenas cut the Kings’ lead to 95-88 with 7:09 remaining. But the Kings responded with Casspi’s two free throws and Nocioni’s 3-pointer to increase their lead to 100-88.
Thompson hit several perimeter shots and scored 14 points in the opening half, when the Kings shot 57 percent and led 59-54. Jamison had 16 of his 20 points in the first quarter and Arenas had 15.
NOTES: The Kings last appeared in a nationally televised game on Nov. 9, 2007, in a 93-91 loss at Cleveland. … Following a poor game Tuesday night in Portland, Kings starting center Spencer Hawes(notes) was benched and didn’t enter the game until 3:49 remaining in the third quarter. He had two points and two rebounds in eight minutes. … The Wizards have two games remaining on their four-game road trip. They are 3-9 on the road this season.