THE FACTS: In a tightly contested game, the Sacramento Kings used the long ball and a spirited crowd to overcome the Houston Rockets by a final of 117-111 Sunday night.
Isaiah Thomas led the Kings (19-33) in scoring with 23 points and six assists. DeMarcus Cousins finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, but sat for most of the fourth quarter with five fouls. Veteran winger John Salmons was hot from the line down the stretch, scoring 23 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. James Harden scored a game-high 30 points on 10-for-20 shooting for the Rockets (28-25). Omer Asik played well in the post, finishing with a solid 17-point and 12-rebound double-double, while Patrick Patterson added 18 points and six rebounds in the loss.
QUOTABLE: "I made a few shots, then got to the free-throw line as well, and we made Houston be on their heels a little bit."
-- Isaiah Thomas on his big fourth quarter
THE STAT: This game turned into a 3-point shootout late in the game, with both teams heaving away. The Kings outshot the Rockets 55-percent (11-for-20) to 30-percent (10-for-33) from long range overall, but in the fourth quarter, Sacramento went 5-for-8 (62.5-percent), while the hit just 1 of their 9 attempts (11 percent).
TURNING POINT: With 1:09 left in the fourth quarter and the Rockets trailing by one, Harden fouled Salmons in the act of shooting a 3-pointer. Salmons buried all three freebies, giving the Kings the 111-107 lead.
QUOTABLE II: "We pulled together as a group, as a unit, and won the basketball game."
-- Kings coach Keith Smart on sticking with the same group down the stretch
HOT: Thomas caught fire late, scoring 17 of his 23 points in the deciding fourth quarter. He attacked Jeremy Lin relentlessly on the offensive end, eventually fouling out the Rockets starting point guard.
NOT: Chandler Parsons struggled all night long, finishing with five points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from behind the arc.
GOOD MOVE: Smart handed the keys to the car to Thomas and he delivered down the stretch.
BAD MOVE: At the midway point of the third, Smart pulled Cousins who picked up his fourth foul. Minutes later, he pulled starting power forward Jason Thompson as well, leaving the Kings undersized and offensively challenged in the post. Houston exploited the weakness big time, taking a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, before both Thompson and Cousins returned at the 9:54 mark.
NOTABLE: Dick Bavetta officiated his 2,582nd consecutive game tonight in Sacramento.
UP NEXT: For the Rockets, Tuesday @ Golden State, Wednesday @ Clippers, Wednesday vs. Oklahoma City. For the Kings, Tuesday @ Memphis, Wednesday @ Dallas, Tuesday vs. Spurs.