Kings bag 1st winning season in 17 years
The Manila Times
MIAMI: The Sacramento Kings ensured their first winning season in 17 years with a 101-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday (Friday in Manila). The Kings now have a 42-27 record, are second in the Western Conference and are on course for their first postseason appearance since 2006. Domantas Sabonis had 24 points and 21 rebounds on a night when Sacramento’s defense delivered. The Kings allowed the Nets zero fast break points and no second-chance points as they frustrated a Nets team that are now just a game and a half ahead of the seventh place Miami Heat in the East. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said his counterpart Mike Brown had done a remarkable job to turn around the franchise. “I told him that he had my vote for coach of the year, he has done a heck of a job getting those dudes to the playoffs, 40 wins,” Vaughn said. “To have that franchise where it is, he deserves a lot of credit,” he added. The Indiana Pacers boosted their chances of making the play-in for the post-season with a 139-123 upset win at Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee. Andrew Nembard scored 24 points while Aaron Nesmith had 22, and Indiana had eight players make double figures. The injury-depleted Pacers had to recover from a slow start when they trailed 16-5 but they tied the game up in the second quarter before going in 64-55 down at the break. The Pacers outscored the Bucks 49-37 in the third and 35-22 in the fourth, and although Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 25 points, the All Star captain was left frustrated. “It was a special second half, our levels of aggression and attitude were much, much better,”said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle. “It’s a great win.” The Western Conference leaders, the Denver Nuggets, snapped a four-game losing streak in emphatic fashion, beating the Detroit Pistons 119-100. The win ensured that Denver clinched the Northwest Division and their playoff spot. Nikolas Jokic top-scored with 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Denver. The Nuggets ran away with the game in the fourth quarter, outscoring Detroit 33-14. Pistons guard Jaden Ivey said that was nowhere near good enough against such an opponent. “We had 14 points in the fourth quarter and playing against a championship caliber team that is not going to do it,” he said. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was delighted his team had finally returned to winning ways. “It was great. We talked about getting back to our brand of basketball and that is always going to start and end with defense,” he said, adding that his team had played with “urgency and desperation in the second half to get a much-needed win.” Josh Okogie blocked the game tying three-point attempt from Paolo Banchero as the Phoenix Suns held on for a 116-113 win over the Orlando Magic. The win ended a three-game losing run for the Suns, who suffered a late rally from Orlando, who tied the game up with six minutes left thanks to a three pointer from Franz Wagner. The Toronto Raptors won their sixth straight home game with a 128-111 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder with Cameroonian Pascal Siakam putting up 25 points and 14 rebounds. “I just wanted to be aggressive, be decisive, play with a little more energy, that was my mindset,” said Siakam. All five starters reached double figures for Toronto which delighted the top-scorer. “We have to have games where we all play well, we can do it, we just need to play together, communicate,” he said.