This had all the makings of another loss.
There was a fourth-quarter lead that was gone. Turnovers began piling up, and shots weren’t falling.
It looked a lot like Friday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I wasn’t having flashbacks but the players were,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “That’s why I started burning those timeouts. It wasn’t about what we were going to run on offense, it was about me settling the players down, calming them down.”
It worked, as the Kings recovered from a 16-0 run by the Utah Jazz in the fourth to force overtime and win, 112-102. The win ended a season-worst six-game losing streak.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was also the first time a Sacramento team had won by double digits in overtime.
The Kings led 84-75 with 7:28 to play in the fourth quarter. That’s when the Jazz made their run to take a 91-84 lead with 2:59 left in regulation.
“There was a part of the fourth quarter where you could tell on everybody’s face it was ‘Man here we go again,’” said guard Isaiah Thomas. “We had turnovers, they were scoring, and we stayed together and that was big for us.”
Staying together hasn’t come easy for the Kings (5-13) this season. They’ve faltered late, with the Laker debacle leaving players questioning why they couldn’t keep themselves together and not splinter into winning on their own.
Malone wanted to prevent the Kings from doing that against the Jazz (4-18) who were without two of their top players.
Starting power forward Derrick Favors was out with a sore lower back. Reserve Marvin Williams missed the game with a foot injury.
“I could see our players, their heads were dropping and getting down on themselves,” Malone said. “And that’s what my job is as a head coach is to make sure I get them not to drop their heads and realize there’s still a lot of time to win this game and they did that.”
The Kings managed to put together a 13-6 run to close the game, capped by a game-tying three-pointer by rookie Ben McLemore.
“We stayed poised, that’s the biggest thing,” said center DeMarcus Cousins. “Usually when we get in those situations we get in a panic mode and make the situation worse. But we stayed poised and pulled out a good win.”
McLemore had to rely on poise for his three with 3.2 seconds left in regulation. He had missed his first five shots of the quarter, but Thomas bypassed a shot for himself to find the rookie.
“Isaiah told me I was going to hit a big shot,” McLemore said. “He found me open, and I did. A lot of credit to my teammates and I just had the confidence to shoot the ball again.”
Cousins shook off playing just one minute in the first quarter because of two fouls to lead the Kings with 28 points.
In the Lakers game, the offense became stagnant when the Kings tried to just give the ball to Cousins and watch him work in the post. Against the Jazz, the Kings did more to feed Cousins the ball in positions to attack quickly.
Cousins shot an efficient 10-for-15 and also took 10 free throws, making eight. He also had seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocked shots and liked how the offense worked late.
“Just make it where it’s not just me pounding the basketball,” Cousins said. “Just make it easier for me to get a basket. We had some good sets, and it worked.”
Thomas had 26 points and eight assists. He scored 23 points after halftime.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and make plays,” Thomas said. “I saw some openings, took what the defense gave me. Tried to get myself going and that set up everything else.”
Most importantly for the Kings, it helped set up a win.