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Kings end losing streak in final seconds

There were a few storylines surrounding Sunday’s matinee at the Power Balance Pavilion where the Sacramento Kings hosted the Portland Trailblazers.

1) Coming into the first of a three-game home stand on Sunday, the Kings had lost seven straight games. 2) There was the return of former King J.J. Hickson, who played very little for Sacramento earlier in the season before being waived and claimed by the Blazers where he’s played well. 3) Sunday’s game was the first since Friday’s news of the arena deal falling apart, which was followed by a weekend of bitter statements from George Maloof and Think Big’s Chris Lehane.

The Kings were able to avoid the outside distractions and end their losing streak in dramatic fashion as they used a come-from-behind victory to beat the Blazers by a final score of 104-103. This was Sacramento’s 20th win of the season and the victory evened up their home record at 15-15.

After trailing for much of the game, and by as many as 11, the Kings earned 14 fourth quarter points by Marcus Thornton, who also hit the game-winner with three seconds left. Thornton had scored just six points through the first three quarters.

A highly spirited crowd of just over 16,000 also showed great energy throughout the game. There was much speculation as to what the mood inside Power Balance Pavilion would be like following the weekend’s arena news, but Sacramento once again showed that it still loves this team by coming out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The Maloofs opted to watch the game from their suite at midcourt instead of taking their usual courtside seats. Those were occupied instead by a family of three. Word around the arena was that the Maloofs entered the Pavilion through the front doors alongside fans instead of coming in through the private security entrance.

Former King Hickson has fit in well with Portland, and he hit the game’s first basket. He finished with a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Like Thornton, Portland guard Wesley Matthews also overcame a slow start to lead all scorers with 31 points. Each time the Kings got within reach of the Blazers, Matthews seemed to hit the clutch shot and end the Sacramento rally. Several of these shots were of the three-point variety, as Matthews hit eight of his 10 attempts from downtown. Portland shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 16 of their 32 three-point attempts.

In addition to Thornton’s 20 points, Tyreke Evans added 20, DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 and Isaiah Thomas had 18 points.

The Kings doubled up on Portland in the points in the paint category, winning that battle 58 to 30. Going into the fourth quarter trailing 81-79, the Kings finally received their first standing ovation when they tied the score at 93 on a steal and layup by Thornton. Following an offensive foul by Matthews, the Kings had two chances to take the lead, but Evans and Chuck Hayes each missed easy shots from close range. It was a Cousins layup that put the Kings ahead for the first time at 95-93.

Down 102-100, the Blazers called their final timeout of the game with 10.7 seconds left. When play resumed, Matthews overcame tough defense by Kings forward Francisco Garcia to create just enough room to shoot and nail a three-pointer from the corner with 5.8 seconds left.

The Kings then called their final timeout to set up what would be the game winner.

Oftentimes a team will use their tallest player to inbound the ball, but on this play the Kings used 5-foot-9 Thomas. He fed the ball to Thornton, who came off a screen to catch the pass, turn and hit the shot from the elbow to send the fans into a frenzy. The Blazers still had three seconds left, but with no timeouts they had to go the length of the floor and rush their final shot, which was not close.

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