Kings beat Nuggets on Evans’ bucket with 0.7 left
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—This time, Tyreke Evans(notes) was determined to start his move earlier and make sure he got a shot off, something he failed to do twice in game-winning situations in late December.
Unlike the other two games, losses to Cleveland and the Lakers, this was a game to savor for Sacramento’s rookie guard. Evans made the tiebreaking jumper with 0.7 seconds left and scored 27 points, helping the Kings beat the Denver Nuggets 102-100 on Saturday night to snap a season-high, five-game losing streak.
Following a timeout, Evans drove inside, pumped fake, and hit 10-foot fadeaway over Kenyon Martin(notes). The clutch basket capped a wild fourth quarter where the lead changed hands five times and was tied on three occasions. J.R. Smith(notes) missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Coach (Paul Westphal) gave me the opportunity and that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be the guy with the ball in my hands,” said Evans, who scored 10 fourth-quarter points. “I had worked on that move a lot. I stopped in the lane, pump faked, and was fading away. I had a good look at the basket. I thought it was going in.”
Evans’ second game-winning shot this season halted a recent slide of seven losses in eight games. In many of those losses the youthful Kings failed to function offensively down the stretch. That included a loss Friday night in Golden State where the Kings squandered an 18-point lead and were outscored 32-15 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very gratifying to finally pull one out like this,” said Spencer Hawes(notes), who scored 17 points and made a big 3-pointer in the fourth. “It felt like every game we were in we couldn’t execute down the stretch. Good teams finish in the fourth quarter. That’s what we did tonight.”
“I was under the basket when it left his hand, it had the perfect trajectory, there was no question about it,” Hawes said of Billups’ 3-pointer.
Smith scored 20 points for Denver, which played its fifth straight game without injured star Carmelo Anthony(notes) because of a knee injury. The NBA’s second-leading scorer is expected to play Tuesday against Minnesota.
In his second game back after playing just one half in the previous nine game while nursing a groin injury, Billups felt Denver let up after dominating the first half and leading by as many as 13 points.
“The kid hit a great shot on a great defender (Martin),” Billups said. “It really shouldn’t have came down to that. But they fought hard and we have to give them credit. There were a lot of reasons that we lost this game.”
With Denver trailing by one, Nene was called for an offensive foul, giving the Kings the ball back with 22 seconds left. The Nuggets fouled Beno Udrih(notes), who made both free throws to put the Kings in front 100-97 with 15 seconds left.
Sacramento was behind since late in the third quarter until Hawes made a 3-pointer and Evans followed with a drive and subsequent three-point play, putting the Kings ahead 91-88 with 4:02 left in the game.
Denver came right back to regain the lead at 93-91 with 2:35 left on a jumper by Billups and a 3-pointer by Smith.
After a lackluster opening half where they never led, the Kings scored the first eight points of the third quarter, leading to a 20-6 run. But Billups helped the Nuggets regain control, scoring 10 points in the period to help Denver take a 76-73 lead into the fourth.
“The energy was good in the first half and the reaction was good,” Denver coach George Karl said. “In the second half they got a lot of points early and the game became more of an offensive game. They made some big 3s when they had to and made that big shot at the end.”
Frustrated with the officiating and perhaps his team’s losing ways the past two weeks, Westphal was given a technical late in the first half. He promptly sat on the scorer’s table, mimicking the same position of Karl.
“I’m acting like George, why don’t you treat me like George,” said Westphal, who remained in that same position nearly a minute after the first half ended.
Graham and Martin scored 11 points and Billups added 10 for the Nuggets, who got off to a fast start in the opening quarter and led 54-43 at the half. Evans and Udoka had 10 points for the Kings.
NOTES: The Kings’ Kevin Martin(notes), who broke his left wrist five games into the season and had surgery Nov. 9, is awaiting medical clearance. He is expected to pick a return date after a Tuesday doctor’s appointment. … Former World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Urijah Faber of Sacramento, was in a courtside seat next to Kings owner Gavin Maloof. Faber will fight a non-title bout Sunday at Arco Arena. … Rookie guard Ty Lawson(notes) missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.