December was supposed to be the month the Kings fattened their record with a schedule heavy on home games.
It didn’t work out that way.
DeMarcus Cousins got sick. Coach Michael Malone was fired. The 5-1 start to the season became a distant memory as losses piled up.
The last chance to salvage playing 11 of 15 December games at Sleep Train Arena was Saturday night, when the Kings hosted the struggling New York Knicks.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The Kings, who entered the game losers of seven of their last eight, blew a 15-point lead as the Knicks forced overtime, but Sacramento recovered for a 135-129 overtime win.
“Very much needed win,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said. “Even though it wasn’t the prettiest basketball, we’ll take the win.”
The Kings gave up 24 points off 17 turnovers and allowed the Knicks to shoot 49.5 percent, which helped New York stay close.
But the Kings shot 55.1 percent, making 8 of 16 three-point attempts.
“We’ve been struggling to find a way to win,” Darren Collison said. “And really when you struggle so much, you really don’t know how to win because you’ve been struggling to get a win. It’s just good to get a win under our belt right now.”
The Kings led 89-80 entering the fourth quarter but didn’t play with the poise needed to close out the game.
After New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. tied the score 117-117 with a layup off a turnover with 20.2 seconds left in regulation, the Kings had a final possession. How that possession played out upset Kings fans and, most noticeably, Cousins.
Rudy Gay dribbled out most of the clock before losing it on a turnover with one second to play. Cousins was irate over the play, repeatedly yelling at the Kings’ bench until overtime started.
“We wanted to make sure we got the last shot of regulation, and we wanted DeMarcus and Rudy in the play,” Corbin said. “Unfortunately, it ended up being a turnover for us. But I can’t say enough about how much I respect the guys for coming in overtime and taking over the game.”
The Kings regrouped and, with the score 126-126, went on a 9-0 run to put the game away.
It was New York’s seventh consecutive loss.
The Kings went 4-7 at home in December and are 4-9 this month. They begin a four-game trip Monday in Brooklyn with a 13-17 record.
Sacramento entered December 9-8, looking to build on a surprising start. But Cousins contracted viral meningitis in late November and eventually missed 10 games, eight of them in December because of the illness. He also missed Friday night’s loss to Phoenix because of a stomach illness.
Cousins led the Kings with a season-high 39 points and 11 rebounds. Gay had 29 points and three assists. Collison had a season-high 27 points and 10 assists.
The Kings registered a season high in points. But New York also scored a season high for a Sacramento opponent, surpassing the 128 the Warriors recorded in a victory Monday.
The Kings came out strong with one of their best offensive showings for a half. In the first quarter, Collison had eight assists, the most by a King this season. Cousins also had it going in the first quarter with 15 points, including his first attempted and made three-pointer of the season. His previous made three-pointer came March 28, 2013.
Sacramento made 24 baskets and shot 64.9 percent, both season highs for a half. Cousins scored 19 points, Gay 17 and Collison 15 in the half.
Carmelo Anthony led the depleted Knicks (5-27) with 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Former King Cole Aldrich had a career-high 18 points before fouling out, and Hardaway scored 19.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani are among the Knicks who would be in the rotation but are out because of injuries.