The Kings had taken their final timeout. They trailed by one point with 3.4 seconds to go.
Bogdan Bogdanovic inbounded the ball to Buddy Hield, who was immediately swarmed by three defenders. The ball wasn’t caught cleanly, but he was able to corral it, spin free and put up a shot off his left leg.
All net, red light, ballgame.
As Hield sprinted around the court and off to the locker room, the call was confirmed by the officials. His seventh 3-pointer of the night gave him 35 points and gave the Kings a 103-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
“All glory to God, He’s been blessing me in so many ways,” Hield said. “As a kid, you always dream of hitting one of those shots, especially at a high level like this, and it’s something I will cherish the rest of my life.”
On the play, Hield said his first read was to pass, but because he didn’t control the ball initially, he had to shoot.
“I saw Willie (Cauley-Stein) was wide open and I tried to turn and catch it and after that it slipped and I was able to regain it,” Hield said. “I was able to split three guys and put it up in the air, and that’s all she wrote after that.”
It took a big rally for the Kings to get in position for Hield’s winning shot.
With a little more than six minutes left, Sacramento was down by 12 and facing an 0-2 start to its season-long six-game trip.
Most of the damage was done by Blake Griffin, a five-time All-Star forward who didn’t play when the teams met nine days prior in Sacramento. Griffin was up to 33 points at that time and scored his game-high 38th at the rim with less than a minute remaining. That layup reclaimed the lead for the Pistons after the hosts trailed for the first time since the opening period due to the Kings’ 19-6 run.
Hield was responsible for most of that. After scoring 20 points in the first half, he went scoreless in the third quarter. Upon returning to the game at the 6:53 mark, Hield got the Kings going. He was 5 of 10 overall but made all three of his 3-point attempts during the run.
“It doesn’t take much to light his lamp,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “It just takes one. He can miss three or four in a row and he can make 12 in a row.”
Hield’s third 3 in the period put the Kings in front before Griffin’s layup. The Pistons had a chance to increase their lead, but Reggie Jackson missed a long jumper, which was rebounded by Iman Shumpert.
That set the stage for the final play.
“Buddy made obviously a great play, and that feels good,” Joerger said after his club won for the ninth time after trailing by 10 or more. The numerous rallies have earned them the nickname “Cardiac Kings” on social media.
It was the Kings’ second buzzer-beating victory. Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer as time expired in a 117-116 home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 27.
Hield’s backcourt mate had no doubt once the ball went up.
“When he shot it, it looked good the whole way,” said De’Aaron Fox, who recorded his 10th double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. “I mean he was hot. ... I had no doubt that it was going in.”
Hield has been hot this season. He’s shooting a career-high 48.2 percent in leading the Kings in scoring at 20.5 points per game.
The third-year guard, who made seven 3s in a game for the third time this season, is third in the NBA with 156 makes from the arc. While he trails Houston’s James Harden by 51 and Golden State’s Stephen Curry by 31, his 45.6 percent on 3s bests anyone in the top 20 in made 3s.
Hield averages 3.4 3-pointers per game. He’s on pace to make 278, which would easily surpass the Kings’ season record of 240 set by Peja Stojakovic in 2003-04.
While Hield is thankful for the moment, his focus is on winning. The Kings get their next chance Monday at Brooklyn.
“It’s a fun year, a fun group,” Hield said. “We just gotta keep on rolling.”