It was a loss, but it was unlike others where the Kings wondered if they were improving.
The end still stung, though.
Deron Williams made a three-pointer at the second-overtime buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 117-116 win Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
The Kings were missing three key players, including two starters. But they nearly ended more than a decade of frustration in Dallas, where they last won Feb. 27, 2003, a 22-game span.
“I’m not really here to make any excuses,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “We had a great chance to win the game. We have to pull through.”
The Kings couldn’t finish off the Mavericks after leading 116-109 with 1:20 to play in the second overtime.
But the Kings’ reaction to the defeat indicated growth and maturity. Although other losses had the Kings headed off an emotional cliff, this time they appeared more on an even keel that would serve them well over a long season.
“We’re on the right path,” Cousins said. “I think we’ve grown a lot. We grew up a lot tonight. A lot of adversity tonight, but we kept playing, playing together and just made plays for one another, and it gave us a great chance of winning this game.”
The Kings were coming off a win Monday in Oklahoma City that ended a 0-14 stretch on the road against the Thunder.
Coach George Karl hopes his players can take some lessons from Tuesday’s game. He was satisfied with their effort.
“This road trip I think we’ll remember that we’re coming together in a good way,” Karl said. “But just disappointed not to have two wins instead of one. The only thing I can complain about is the outcome of the game.”
The Kings led 116-109 after Rudy Gay’s three-pointer with 1:20 to play, but Dallas came back.
Dirk Nowitzki’s three-pointer with 26.3 seconds to go cut the Kings’ lead to 116-114. The Mavericks then decided not to foul to preserve time. The strategy paid off when Darren Collison shot an airball that led to a shot-clock violation, giving Dallas the ball with 2.3 seconds left.
“They actually gambled,” Collison said. “If I would have hit the rim, it would have run some more time off the clock. It was an unfortunate situation for us because they were able to set up their play.”
Williams then caught the inbound pass in front of the Kings’ bench, pump-faked to evade Gay and sank the winner.
“They came down and hit some big shots,” Cousins said.
The Kings were missing starters Rajon Rondo (lower back spasms) and Omri Casspi (upper back soreness) and key reserve Willie Cauley-Stein (lacerated right middle finger).
But Cousins did all he could in the second overtime to get the Kings out of town with a win, scoring their first nine points of the period. He finished with 35 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and a career-high-tying six steals. Cousins also had 10 turnovers.
Cousins became the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder in the Sacramento era with 4,019, surpassing Chris Webber’s 4,006.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” Cousins said. “I’m a big fan of C-Webb and it’s an incredible honor.”
Despite the tough outcome, the Kings didn’t gripe. They focused on learning and moving on to the next game.
“We are growing. We are maturing,” Collison said. “We understand these are the games we need to win. It’s our mental disposition that’s changing right now. We’re not backing down. We definitely felt like we should have won this game. There’s nothing else to say.”