SACRAMENTO (AP) – Keith Smart saw a black tarp that covered an advertisement fall from the scoreboard above center court and ran out to grab the piece of plastic while his Sacramento Kings played defense on the other end. Officials whistle the play dead, and Smart sprinted back to the bench like a running back holding a football, drawing roars from a rare sellout crowd.
While Sacramento’s aging arena might be falling apart, the Kings managed to hold things together in their home opener.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and the Kings nearly blew a 16-point lead before holding off the Golden State Warriors 94-92 on Monday night to avoid an 0-4 start.
“I saw something that was a problem, and I had to rectify that problem immediately,” joked Smart, the former Warriors coach. “And I think I did a good job. I was worried about slipping, though.”
Sacramento steady enough.
Cousins outworked slow-footed Andrew Bogut and every other Warriors big man to help the Kings go on a 16-0 run during the third quarter to bust open a tie game. Bogut hardly looked to be at full strength, though he again refused to make excuses, saying “I’m playing in the NBA. If you are out on the court, you are healthy.”
The 7-footer from Australia had 12 points and three rebounds while playing almost 19 minutes as Golden State’s new franchise center – and his surgically repaired left ankle – eases back into shape.
Klay Thompson had 22 points and David Lee scored 20 to bring the Warriors within a point in the final minute. But Thompson missed a potential tying jumper and Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired to seal Golden State’s first road loss this season.
“The game was lost when the lead went from 6 or 7 up to 16,” Lee said. “From there, you pretty much have to play perfect basketball before you get back into it.”
After losing the first three games on the road, a return to California’s capital city ignited Sacramento’s stagnant start this season.
The Kings wore their black road uniforms for the “blackout” theme and the Warriors stayed with their blue road jerseys. Fog machines filled the floor during pregame introductions, which included team dancers in black hoods and Medieval gear, and the announced crowd of 17,317 seemed to lift Sacramento throughout.
Thornton threw an alley-oop that rookie Thomas Robinson finished for a one-handed slam on an uncontested fast break, and Aaron Brooks followed with a 3-pointer to give Sacramento a 47-35 lead in the second quarter. Thornton finished with 16 points and Brooks had 12 points.
Bogut played the first 5:17 and sat out the rest of the first half. At one point, he also took the shoe off his left foot while sitting on Golden State’s bench.
The Warriors tied the score at 56-all on Curry’s 3-pointer with 8:52 remaining in the third quarter. But they didn’t make another basket for more than six minutes, when the Kings scored 16 straight points behind a flurry of defense, rebounding and overall effort.
Cousins had the final five points during Sacramento’s surge, including ripping a rebound away from rookie Festus Ezeli and drawing a foul to start a three-point play.
“I’ve started the season off pretty rough,” Cousins said. “I know the way I play affects this team in a lot of ways. I knew I had to step up tonight.”
Seemed everybody on Sacramento’s side did.
Smart’s nifty move in the second quarter came during his team’s first-half spurt. And in separate second-half incidents, three more pieces of plastic fell down from the scoreboard hanging above center court. Some fans even chanted “New Arena!”
The Kings almost crumbled on the court, too.
Curry made a 3-pointer and Thompson converted a layup through traffic with a little more than 2 minutes remaining to bring the Warriors within three. Thompson’s two free throws sliced Sacramento’s lead to 93-92 with 31.3 seconds left.
After Cousins missed a difficult running shot, Golden State called timeout with 10.3 seconds remaining. Thompson then missed a contested shot near the free-throw line, James Johnson grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Johnson missed the second free throw to give the Warriors another chance with 1.3 seconds to play. Off the in-bound play, Curry missed a 3-pointer over big man Chuck Hayes as time expired.
“I thought it was in,” Hayes said. “When Klay Thompson shot the other one, I thought it was good. Those are two guys when the ball leaves their hands, you think it’s good.”
Golden State was trying to start 3-0 on the road for the first time since 1994-95, when it won at San Antonio, Denver and Utah. The Warriors won at Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers already this season while losing their only home game to Memphis.
The Kings haven’t started 0-4 since 2008. All four of those games were on the road that season, when Sacramento finished with an NBA-worst 17-65 record.