By Morgan Ragan
The Sacramento Kings defeated the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night 90-88.
It was one of those unforgettable wins, and a great way for head coach Michael Malone and his team to start a new era of NBA basketball in the city of Sacramento.
“I was happy we could do this for our fans. Unbelievable atmosphere in the building tonight,” Malone said following his first win as Kings head coach.
There was purple everywhere—purple carpet, purple glow sticks, purple shirts—and even Barbara Rust aka Sign Lady returned to the arena. Rust has been battling breast cancer but took in the game with the rest of the sold out crowd at Sleep Train Arena.
Before the starters were announced, KHTK’s Carmichael Dave was on the microphone and had the entire arena crack their glow sticks. As 17,317 purple glow sticks lit up the arena, the lights went down and an unforgettable video showing the remarkable journey to keep this team in Sacramento played on the big screen.
The video came to an end and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was in the middle of the floor thanking fans and ending his high-energy pregame speech with: “This is your team and it’s here to stay!”
Pre-game festivities ended with the long awaited announcement of the starting lineup for the Kings. Malone started the 2013-14 season with Marcus Thornton, Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins.
This group started the game strong as they took a 9 point lead in the first quarter. With four minutes left in the first, rookie Ben McLemore checked in and the crowd roared. McLemore’s got off to a slow start, only scoring four points and going one for five behind the arc in 17 minutes. McLemore held his own and will make his mark in this league with time.
During a timeout, Mayor Kevin Johnson, Ranadive and NBA commissioner David Stern came out the floor. Johnson and Ranadive presented Stern with a key to the city and proclaimed October 30th as the official David Stern day in Sacramento.
With 1:24 left in the game, the score was tied at 88. The crowd was chanting “SACRAMENTO!” in what felt like a playoff atmosphere. Jason Thompson scored the game-winner on a put back in the final minute. Denver had the last possession but Randy Foye missed an open shot as time expired.
Malone was impressed with his team’s win.
“Hell of a win, way to start the season off,” Malone said. “It’s going to be a long season if every game is like that, but we’ll take it.”
Cousins finished with 30 points and 14 boards, Vasquez added 17 points and Isaiah Thomas added 16 points off the bench. Crowd favorite Jimmer Fredette did not play a minute, which was a coach’s decision.
Wednesday night was more than a game and the win was just the icing on the cake for Sacramento. It is always a positive way to start off any season with a win but Malone will not be satisfied until it’s a great win and plans on getting back to work for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“For us to go out there and play well in spurts we have to be more consistent we pulled out the win and I’m proud of our guys,” Malone said. “We have to get back to work for our next game on Friday”
You can hear Morgan with Deuce & J-Ross from 12-3 p.m. on KHTK. Follow her on Twitter: @momoragan