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Thornton’s late jumper lifts Kings over Portland with 3.4 seconds left

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POSTED April 16, 2012 1:25 a.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Marcus Thornton scored 20 points and made the winning jumper with 3.4 seconds left, lifting the Sacramento Kings to a 104-103 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

Thornton hit a 17-footer off an inbound pass before Portland’s Raymond Felton missed a desperation shot from halfcourt at the buzzer.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 23 points and Tyreke Evans also had 20 for the Kings, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a seven-game skid with only their third win in 15 games. Isaiah Thomas had 18 points and eight assists.

Wes Matthews made a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored 31 points for the Trail Blazers, who made 16 of their 32 3-point attempts. Felton scored 19 points, Nicolas Batum had 14, and JJ Hickson had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Blazers have dropped two straight and four of five, and are close to being eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Conference.

After a steal by Terrence Williams gave the Kings the ball, Cousins drove the baseline on Joel Przybilla and made a difficult left-handed shot from close range. Matthews answered, getting free of Francisco Garcia for a corner 3-pointer, giving the Blazers a 103-102 lead with 5.8 seconds left.

Trailing by three, Matthews hit a 3 from the corner and Felton added a jumper, giving Portland a 100-98 lead at the 1:17 mark. Two free throws by Evans tied the game again with just over 35 seconds remaining.

After the Blazers built a 10-point lead in the fourth, the Kings scored 10 unanswered points. Thornton made a fastbreak lay-in and Evans followed with a layup in traffic, tying the game at 91 with 5:46 left.

It was the first home game in Sacramento since ownership announced Friday at the the NBA owners meetings that they were backing out of a proposed downtown arena plan in Sacramento.

Since announcing their decision, the Maloofs have been under sharp criticism from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, local business leaders and angered fans, who still showed up for the mid-afternoon game. Attendance was 16,012.

The franchise, which appeared to be relocating to Anaheim at the end of last season, has now fallen under another cloud of uncertainty. Although the Kings will remain in Sacramento next season, now that the arena plan has seemingly failed, it’s not clear what the Maloofs will do for the 2013-14 season.

Joe and Gavin Maloof kept a low profile at Sunday’s game, watching from their luxury box and turning down interview requests from the media. Their usual courtside seats were occupied by an elderly couple and two young children.

Hickson came to the Kings in an offseason trade and expected to be the starting power forward. However, he mostly came off the bench and was unhappy and also unproductive, averaging 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18 minutes.

The Kings released Hickson on March 19 and the injury-riddled Blazers picked him up. Hickson, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, was averaging 20 points and 11.3 rebounds in his four previous starts with the Blazers.

After shooting poorly in the opening half, Matthews went off in the third quarter when he made five 3s and scored 19 points, helping the Blazers take an 81-79 lead into the fourth.

Portland led by as many as 10 in the third, but Cousins had 12 points and Thomas added nine to help rally the Kings.

Notes: Felton scored 13 points in the first half for the Blazers, who shot 52 percent and led 54-46. ... Garcia was back in uniform after missing the last four games with a concussion. He went scoreless in six minutes. ... The Blazers are 8-10 since interim coach Kaleb Canales took over for Nate McMillan on March 15. ... Portland made 6 of 9 3-point attempts in the third quarter, when they shot 60 percent overall.

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