WASHINGTON (AP) — With the score tied and only a few seconds to play, the hottest player on the court faced off against a defender who had been riding the bench all game.
It was no contest.
Isaiah Thomas took the inbounds pass and sized up Garrett Temple immediately, driving to the middle of the lane to put in a left-handed floater with 1 second remaining, giving the Sacramento Kings a 96-94 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night.
“I seen a guy that was guarding me that hasn’t played the whole game, so I felt I had the opportunity to take him,” Thomas said with a smile. “And he kind of forced me to my strong hand, so I just wanted to make a play and it happened to go in.”
Thomas had 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists as the Kings broke a four-game losing streak. Francisco Garcia added 17 points for Sacramento in a game that included 16 ties and no lead bigger than seven points.
At the end, there was little doubt that Thomas would take the last shot. The message from coach Keith Smart: Don’t settle for a jumper.
“You’re going to get by his guy or get a foul. Or you can make a quick play,” Smart said. “I thought he did the right thing by driving the basket and getting his little floater. All that drill work he does every day and that little floater gave us a big win.”
Emeka Okafor scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and John Wall had 19 points and six assists for the Wizards, whose home winning streak ended at five games. Still, Washington is 6-4 and has been competitive in every game since Wall’s return from a knee injury — including a one-point loss at Sacramento on Jan. 16 — and it speaks volumes that their close losses are no longer seen as moral victories.
“I hope it does hurt us a little bit,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “It stings.”
Wittman will get second-guessed for the way this one ended. After Martell Webster tied the game on a short jumper with 7.9 seconds to play, the coach figured the best way to stop Thomas was by putting in Temple, who played all of 13 seconds in the game — all in the final half-minute.
“I wanted to try something different. … We didn’t have anybody that could guard him,” Wittman said.
Okafor’s jumper with 2:26 to play tied the game at 88, and Thomas made 1 of 2 free throws with 2:14 remaining to start a series of back-and-forth, one-point leads that finally ended when Tyreke Evans made a pair from the line to put Sacramento ahead 93-90 with 19.6 seconds remaining.
Wall’s layup pulled the Wizards within one with 12.6 to go, and Evans made 1 of 2 free throws with 11.7 remaining to make the score 94-92.
Webster then tied the game, giving the Kings the chance to set up the winning shot for Thomas, one that deflated a Wizards team that has only recently become accustomed to winning at home.
Perhaps the most glaring statistic for Washington: 20 turnovers to go with 20 assists.
“I think we just got in a mind-state in a certain point of that game,” Webster said, “where we just kind of felt like, ‘Oh, we can outscore these guys.’ … We let them get the best of us, and we can’t let them impede on our poise. And we did.”
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.)