Basketball: Kings’ win streak reaches four games
SACRAMENTO – Jason Thompson’s improvement is starting to pay off for the Sacramento Kings.
Thompson had a career-high 27 points and added 11 rebounds for the Kings, who won their fourth straight game, defeating the Houston Rockets 109-100 on Friday night.
The previous time the Kings won four consecutive games was late in the 2007-08 season. Only 11,762 fans witnessed this latest victory, which upped the Kings’ home record to 4-1.
“It’s starting to get kind of loud in this building, I really like that,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said.
Westphal also really likes the production he is getting from Thompson, a second-year post player who is learning how to avoid the early foul trouble that plagued his rookie season. Playing 37 minutes, Thompson made 9 of 15 shots, hit 9 of 10 free throws, and gave the Kings plenty of extra opportunities with nine offensive rebounds.
“He’s a remarkable young player who is learning how to stay in the game,” Westphal said. “He’s having an impact in a lot of ways like rebounding, he’s one of our most creative passers, and he can shoot the ball.”
Trevor Ariza scored 28 points for the Rockets, who were outrebounded 54-35 and trailed for most of the second half. Shane Battier had 23 points and Luis Scola had 20 points and nine rebounds.
“We knew that they were a good rebounding team, but I believe we could be one too,” Scola said. “We didn’t come prepared to play and we can’t afford to do that.”
Minus leading scorer Kevin Martin, who is out for at least two months with a broken left wrist, the Kings continued to get solid backcourt play. Beno Udrih had 22 points and Tyreke Evans had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. Andres Nocioni added 15 points.
Houston cut the margin to two points several times in the fourth quarter, but the Kings responded with important baskets each time.
“We can’t let ourselves get down like that, we have to come out with better energy and get stops,” Ariza said. “We just didn’t get stops when we needed them.”
Trying to protect a five-point lead, Evans made a long baseline jumper and the next time down the court banked in a 23-foot jumper from beyond the foul line with the shot clock about to expire, putting the Kings up 107-98 with 52 seconds left.
“I let it fly and it went in,” Evans said.
In the third quarter, the Rockets quickly overcame an 11-point deficit and pulled ahead briefly when Scola scored inside midway through the period. But the Kings used Nocioni’s 3-point play to retake the lead and went into the fourth with an 82-77 advantage.
In a fast-paced opening half, Udrih made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points and Thompson had 14 points for the Kings, who led 63-52 despite struggling with turnovers. Ariza scored 18 points for Houston.
Notes: Ariza had all five of his steals in the first half to tie his career high. … It was the fifth straight double-double for Thompson. … The Kings had 18 turnovers, but only one in the fourth quarter.