Thomas scores 25, Kings top Jazz 120-109
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) After a prolonged absence, Sacramento Kings fans did a long version of The Wave on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
The Wave was embraced by Kings fans, but the question that lingers is will fans be sadly waving goodbye to the Kings after this season and moaning about their departure to Seattle?
It was a boisterous crowd of 16,193 that was chanting "Sacramento!" just before tipoff in support of the Kings, who could be sold and move to Seattle next season. The great fan support culminated late in the fourth quarter with The Wave taking more of the center stage than the game. Several Kings players were even doing it on the bench in the fourth quarter, including center DeMarcus Cousins.
"Their energy was crazy, nonstop," Cousins said. "I never had a chance to do The Wave so I made sure I included myself in that and it was an incredible experience. Yeah, I got a little fatigued at the end. I didn't expect it to last that long."
Sacramento led throughout most of the game and played an aggressive, up-tempo style that had the crowd loudly cheering throughout and displaying signs of support. There were more children at the game than normal, thanks to a grassroots campaign that raised more than $9,000 for kids to attend.
"I think it (the fans) got us the win," said Thomas, who made 10 of 16 shots, including two 3-pointers. "They brought us energy and you guys saw it from the jump. We were energized and we looked like a totally different team, especially on the offensive end. We were sharing the ball, we were smiling, everything. It was a good thing."
There weren't a lot of good things happening for Utah. The Jazz had both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, their top two scorers, in foul trouble. The Jazz committed 18 turnovers and never seemed able to match the Kings' considerable energy.
"The fans gave them some energy. I saw that from the beginning of the game," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I played here for a couple of years and the fans were super, supporting the team and being excited about Kings basketball. They still seem to be. They don't want to lose the team."
Alec Burks had a career-high 24 points and Jefferson scored 16, but also had four fouls and played just over 19 minutes. Enes Kantor had 15 points and DeMare Carroll had 14 for the Jazz, who dropped their second straight game. Millsap had five fouls and finished with six points and eight rebounds.
"It was a tough situation for Al and me when we are both trying to win a basketball game," Millsap said. "It happens. We just dropped two in a row. These last two games this week are important for us going into the (All-Star) break."
Jason Thompson had 21 points for the Kings, who snapped a four-game losing streak and had lost eight of nine games, most of them on a recent dismal road trip. Cousins had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and Tyreke Evans added 12 points and six assists.
Although not as effective scoring as usual, Cousins had a solid overall game and avoided any controversy. He was ejected before halftime Monday in Utah and also was booted in a game earlier this season against the Jazz.
Leading by 13 points entering the fourth quarter, the Kings quickly build the margin to 19 points when Thornton converted on a three-point play with 7:16 remaining.
"We've had a full arena before and these players feed of it," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "It helps to see these fans here that have really gotten behind this basketball team. I shared that with the players before the game that our focus was to go out there and put on a show."
The game was billed as "Here We Buy" and reflected a fan-based effort to support the Kings, who have experienced sagging attendance amid rumors of the team moving and another lackluster losing season. Earlier this week, NBA Commissioner David Stern said the Seattle ownership group, led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, formally filed for relocation with the league. The group reached an agreement to purchase 65 percent of the Kings from the Maloof family.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was one of the early arrivals and was shaking hands with fans 40 minutes before game time. Johnson, a former NBA star who grew up in Sacramento, is attempting to put together an owner group and prevent the Kings from moving.
Johnson has declined to name his wealthy investors, but billionaire Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov are in serious talks over partnering on a bid. Johnson has also helped initiate discussions regarding a new downtown arena.
"It was loud. I've never played here in Sacramento and heard a crowd that loud," Utah veteran guard Earl Watson said. "It was loud and their team fed off that."
Notes: Watson was back on the court after missing the previous three games with a lower right leg injury. ... Kings rookie forward Thomas Robinson was called for a technical in the second quarter following some physical play against Millsap. ... Jefferson scored 14 first-half points, but Utah's leading rebounder had just one rebound and finished with three. ... Millsap picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter while defending against Cousins.
Updated February 10, 2013