SACRAMENTO (AP) — James Johnson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer Friday night, lifting the Sacramento Kings to a 106-105 victory over the New York Knicks after blowing an early 27-point lead.
With time running out, John Salmons found Johnson above the top of the key and Johnson’s shot left his had just ahead of the final buzzer. The shot helped the Kings avoid a collapse after building a big lead in the first half.
Marcus Thornton scored 18 points and Johnson had 17 for the Kings.
The Knicks played their second straight game without injured Carmelo Anthony, who leads all Eastern Conference scorers, averaging 28.5 points per game. Anthony has a hyperextended left knee and his hoping to return Jan. 1 when the Knicks play Portland at home.
J.R. Smith scored a season-high 28 points for the Knicks, who outplayed the Kings throughout most of the second half. Rookie Chris Copeland had 23 points and Tyson Chandler had 21 points and 18 rebounds.
Knicks point guard Jason Kidd had 16 points, five assists and seven rebounds. But he also committed a turnover on New York’s final possession.
Cousins had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who led by 21 points at intermission. Jimmer Fredette also had 15 points and Isaiah Thomas had 11 points and nine assists for Sacramento, which made a season-high 15 of 30 3-pointers.
After Francisco Garcia cut the Knicks lead to a point, Chandler made a free throw and Copeland hit a jumper to put New York ahead 105-101 with 2:51 left. Two free throws by Thomas pulled the Kings to 105-103 with 33 seconds remaining.
New York was also without starting point guard Raymond Felton, who has a broken left pinkie finger and is expected to miss at least a month.
Cousins was back in the starting lineup after missing the previous two games after Sacramento suspended him for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team after a verbal confrontation with coach Keith Smart during a Dec. 21 game against the Clippers.
Chandler dunked on an alley-oop pass from Kidd midway through the third quarter. The next time down the court, Kidd stepped back for a 3-pointer, giving the Knicks a 97-95 lead, their first lead since the game’s opening minutes.
Smith scored 11 points in the third quarter when the Knicks used a hustling defensive effort to outscore the Kings 31-16 and pull to 87-81 heading into the fourth.
Following a lethargic first half, the Knicks showed much more energy in cutting into Sacramento’s 21-point halftime lead. Back-to-back three-point plays by Smith and Chandler trimmed the Kings lead to 85-77 with 2:17 left in the third.
Thornton scored 11 first-quarter points to help the Kings take an 11-point lead into the second. Fredette took over the offensive load in the second quarter, making three 3-pointers and scoring 15 points, helping the Kings to a 71-50 lead at the half.
Copeland and Smith had 13 first-half points for the Knicks, who trailed 68-41 late in the second quarter.
The Knicks poor perimeter defense in the opening half cost them repeatedly with the Kings making 10-of-15 attempts and producing a season high for points in one half. Sacramento shot nearly 60 percent overall and had 19 assists, another season-high for a half.
NOTES: In the first quarter, the Kings connected on four straight threes in four possessions, building their lead to 26-14. . Knicks coach Mike Woodson was a starting guard for the inaugural Sacramento team that relocated from Kansas City for the 1985-86 season. . Kings starting guard Tyreke Evans has missed six straight games and 11 of the last 15 due to an injured left knee. He may try to play Sunday against Boston. ... Knicks reserve forward Rasheed Wallace was out with a sore left foot. . The Knicks are hoping injured forward Amar’e Stoudemire will return sometime next week. A knee injury has kept Stoudemire inactive all season.