While the Kings' future in Sacramento has evolved from exciting to uncertain, there was no confusion about the on-court product lately.
It was bad.
Seven consecutive losses had given the Kings their longest losing streak of the season. The last defeat was a 26-point drubbing by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, the day the NBA, city and ownership proclaimed plans for a new arena dead.
So when it was time for Sunday's game at Power Balance Pavilion, the Kings' players weren't sure what to expect from angry fans.
A few fans tried to begin a "Sell the team" cheer, but the Kings' lackluster start seemed to lull the rest of the crowd into a state of apathy, and the cheer didn't gain momentum.
By the end of the game, though, there were cheers after the Kings rallied for a 104-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers before an announced crowd of 16,012.
Marcus Thornton made a 17-foot jumper over Portland center Joel Przybilla with 3.4 seconds to play as the Kings overcame Wesley Matthews' hot shooting. Matthews had given Portland a 103-102 lead on a stepback three-pointer in front of the Kings' bench with 5.8 seconds to play.
After the game, Thornton was quick to thank the fans during an on-court interview and followed up in the locker room.
"They're the best fans that I've ever been around," Thornton said. "Our record doesn't show how good we can be, but for them to stick with us this whole year has been amazing."
Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof visited the locker room after the game. Players did not divulge what was said, but the recent events were on the minds of players and coaches.
Coach Keith Smart said Sacramento fans want to see "good basketball," and after falling behind by 11 points in the first half, the Kings regrouped to give the crowd just that.
"We had a few (fans) that may have voiced their opinion, but once the game started going and became an excitable game, I think they fell back to the side," Smart said. "People get upset, but they are die-hard Kings fans. They like Kings basketball. It's just that they are a little heartbroken like everyone is right now."
That could also describe the Trail Blazers (28-33), who were in position to win behind Matthews' 31 points. He made a career-best eight three-pointers in 10 attempts. In the second half, he had seven three-pointers, a Sacramento arena record and a franchise record for a half by an opposing player.
Portland tied its season high for three-pointers by making 16. But the Kings stayed in the game by taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers. The Kings committed only six turnovers and scored 19 points off 17 Portland turnovers.
The six turnovers were the second-fewest by the Kings this season. They had five turnovers in a March 2 loss at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Center DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings (20-41) with 23 points. Thornton and Tyreke Evans each had 20 points.
It was the second time this season the Kings had three players score at least 20 points. Cousins, Thornton and Evans accomplished the feat in a Feb. 14 loss at Chicago.
Considering the angst among their fans, it was fitting the Kings won at home. After losing badly to the Thunder, the Kings appreciated the support.
"Even with all of the drama going on, our fans came out and supported us," Cousins said. "Stayed engaged in the game and showed their loyalty toward us. So we're thankful to have them, and we love them for it."