Sacramento, Calif. • The Utah Jazz are a basketball team, and a better-than-average one at that. But on Saturday, the Sacramento Kings were a movement.
With their team seemingly on the verge of a move to Seattle, Kings fans rallied and nearly filled their gym to send a message that, despite a recent plunge in attendance, Sacramento still supports the Kings.
When a retreating Derrick Favors could only look up and watch Kings forward Jason Thompson take a lob and dunk over him early in the fourth quarter, it set off chants of “Here We Stay” at Sleep Train Arena, as the Kings routed the Jazz 120-109.
“I have never played here in Sacramento and heard a crowd that loud,” said seven-year veteran Randy Foye.
If there was a bright spot for the Jazz, who split the season series with the Kings, it was the play of reserve guard Alec Burks, who scored a career-high 24 points in 27 minutes. But even Burks, the quiet second-year player out of Colorado, was impressed by the scene the Jazz smacked into.
“It’s that college atmosphere,” he said. “College fans love their team, and it was like that.”
Once one of the most pounding arenas in the NBA, Sleep Train Arena has been home to the NBA’s worst attendance this year, averaging 13,214 fans per game. On Saturday, 16,193 fans showed up, many armed with signs such as, “Our City, Our Kings.”
Maybe this was the last time the Jazz (28-24) will ever play in Sacramento. Maybe it wasn’t, and the arena where John Stockton played his final game will be replaced by something newer and nicer in downtown Sacramento as mayor and former All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson is fighting for.
After Thompson’s dunk, which put the Kings (18-33) up 93-78, Johnson turned to the row of fans behind his courtside seat and said, “That will be on ESPN’s top 10 tonight.”
The league leaders in double-digit comebacks, the Jazz rebounded from an 11-point second-quarter hole — similar to their effort in Friday’s 93-89 loss to Chicago — and briefly took a 50-49 lead, only to commit two turnovers in the final minute of the first half and allow the Kings to take a 62-54 halftime lead.
“We’ll get better,” coach Tyrone Corbin promised. “We just have to learn to be smarter and tougher in key situations and not give up those runs. To finish the quarter off I think it would have been a different game for us.”
Compounding matters for the Jazz was the late-game absence of Paul Millsap. The Jazz co-captain picked up his fourth and fifth fouls within three minutes of halftime, and did not play after the 9:10 mark of the third quarter.
Corbin said he could have taken Millsap out after his fourth foul, but that he felt confident that Favors was ready to go off the bench. Ultimately, Millsap sat with five fouls, and by the time he might have re-entered, the game was out of hand.
“He didn’t come back in after that anyway,” Corbin said, “so it didn’t matter.”
Burks’ role was in question after the return of point guard Earl Watson. Watson had missed four games with a right leg injury, which forced the combo guard Burks into point guard duty. Watson played 23 minutes, many with Burks alongside him in the backcourt.
Jefferson added 16 points, while Enes Kanter scored 15 off the bench.
Former BYU guard Jimmer Fredette scored seven points in 15 minutes off the bench, making three of his first four attempts and adding three assists and two rebounds.
Guard Isaiah Thomas led the Kings with 25 points, while Thompson finished with 21. Marcus Thornton scored off the bench. Center DeMarcus Cousins, ejected in two games against the Jazz earlier this season, played nice and finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Storylines Kings 120, Jazz 109
R The Jazz trail by as many as 19, and lose for the second time this season in Sacramento.
• Jazz guard Alec Burks scores a career-high 24 points in 27 minutes.