SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A veteran who lost his starting job this season due to poor play, John Salmons was on the court when it counted most Wednesday night for the struggling Sacramento Kings.
Marcus Thornton scored 25 points, but it was Salmons making the game's most significant basket, a go-ahead layup with 6.8 seconds left to help the Kings snap a four-game losing streak with a 99-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Hornets led by one and inbounded with 8.9 seconds left, but Isaiah Thomas stole Trevor Ariza's pass and quickly spotted Salmons cutting to the basket for a left-handed layup.
``He (Ariza) lofted it, and it was in the air long enough that I had a chance to get it,' said Thomas, who started the game, but played only the final 58 seconds of the fourth quarter. ``I was lucky enough that I got a hand on it and was able to get the steal.'
The confident rookie point guard from the University of Washington quickly located Salmons heading toward the basket and his pass was on target.
``Credit Isaiah. He made the steal and threw it over Jarrett Jack's head,' said Salmons, who had 12 points in 26 minutes. ``It was a fairly open layup, but I needed to concentrate and make sure that I made the basket.'
Jack had 25 points and Ariza 20 for the Hornets, who lost their third straight and fifth in six games. Chris Kaman had 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Ariza missed a jumper as time expired to give Sacramento the home victory, where the Kings are 9-6 this season.
``You have to take care of the ball,' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ``I didn't like the fact that we turned the ball over at the end of the game, but we also turned it over 20 times. It's always easy to point to that last play because we had the lead and the game in control. ``
Tyreke Evans had 13 points for the Kings, who had dropped 10 of their previous 12 games. Jason Thompson and Thomas both had 12 points, and Jimmer Fredette scored 11.
The Kings played without second-year center DeMarcus Cousins, their third-leading scorer and top rebounder. The team said he was suffering from food poisoning. The Kings are 2-0 in games Cousins has missed this season, both coming against the Hornets.
This was the first of a franchise-record nine straight home games for the Kings. It came one day after the City Council and Mayor Kevin Johnson took care of the financial details of a new arena that will keep the team in Sacramento indefinitely, ending rumors that the team might move to Anaheim or Seattle.
The City Council approved the measure Tuesday night to build a new downtown arena that is expected to break ground next spring and be ready for the 2015-16 season.
Sacramento concluded its winless four-game road trip with an overtime loss Monday against Denver. The Kings are 4-20 on the road.
``We obviously play different at home, so it's nice to have eight more on our court,' Thompson said. ``It was good to get this win and get the monkey off our back. We've had a lot of tough games lately, especially the Denver.'
It was yet another evening of playing short-handed for the injury-ridden Hornets, who have been decimated by injuries this season and only dressed nine players against the Kings.
``A couple of our guys struggled with fouls and you know it was like worst-case scenario as far as not having enough guys to go,' Kaman said. ``We give them credit. They made a play at the end.'
Thornton made a basket to pull the Kings to within 98-97. A shot clock violation by New Orleans gave Sacramento the ball back with 19 seconds left and trailing by one point. Thornton missed a jumper, but the Kings got a final chance after the turnover.
Trailing by six points early in the fourth quarter, the Kings ran off seven straight points to assume the lead. Fredette's 3-pointer ended the run, giving Sacramento an 85-84 advantage.
The Hornets continued to shoot well in the third quarter, when they outscored the Kings 26-20. Jack scored eight points and Ariza had seven in the quarter. Greivis Vasquez made the Hornets' first 3-pointer of the game with 21 seconds remaining in the period, putting New Orleans ahead 80-78 heading into the fourth.
Thomas scored 12 points and Thornton had 10, helping the Kings take a 58-54 lead into halftime. Jack and Kaman both scored 12 points in the opening half for the Hornets, who shot 57 percent.
Notes: The latest Hornet with an injury was starting power forward Gustavo Ayon, who missed the game due to a sore left foot. . The Hornets are expected to sign Solomon Jones for the remainder of the season on Wednesday. Jones, who started against the Kings, is on the final day of his second 10-day contract. . The Kings attempted 14 3-point shots in the opening half while the Hornets shot just one.
The Associated Press News Service
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