The Sacramento Kings will be looking to work their late-game magic once again on the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder when the Western Conference playoff hopefuls duel on Wednesday night.
The Thunder will be making their second trip to the California capital this season. No doubt, they haven’t forgotten what happened the first time.
That’s when the Kings rallied from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to win 94-93 on a late 3-pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic, surviving a Chris Paul buzzer-beating miss that could have reversed the outcome.
The comeback wasn’t as dramatic as the one the Kings performed on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, when Sacramento used a 21-4 flurry over the final 2:30 to force overtime, where they outlasted the hosts for a 133-129 stunner.
The comeback was historic on multiple fronts.
Since the NBA began providing stat services with play-by-play in 1996, it was the first time a team had rallied to win after trailing by 17 or more points with fewer than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter or overtime.
And it was just the second time in 25 years that a player — in this case, Buddy Hield — had scored 20 or more points on perfect shooting in the fourth quarter of a game in which his team rallied to win after trailing at one stage by 25 or more points.
Hield, who boasts that he wears No. 24 because Kobe Bryant was his favorite player, channeled his innermost Kobe one day after his death with 20 points on 6-for-6 shooting, including 5-for-5 on 3s, in the remarkable fourth period. He finished with a career-high 42.
“That’s the reason I wanted to play in the NBA because of Kobe,” Hield noted to reporters after the game. “I feel that he was with me. He never gives up. That’s always his mentality: Never give up. No matter what the stakes was, he was always pushing, always pressing. He’s making sure guys feel him. That’s what I did tonight.”
Hield had a team-high 23 points in the earlier win over Oklahoma City, that time as a starter. He has come off the bench in Sacramento’s last two games, averaging 31.5 points as the Kings have won two straight after dropping six in a row.
The Thunder, meanwhile, had been streaking in the other direction with five consecutive wins until a 107-97 home loss to Dallas on Monday.
They played that game without Paul, who asked for the night off in order to stay in Los Angeles — where he had gone Saturday to attend his daughter’s dance recital — in the wake of the news of Bryant’s death on the northwest side of town.
“He’s doing fine,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan reported to the media about Paul before Monday’s game after talking to his point guard by phone. “It’s a personal day for him.”
Paul, whose absence was his first of the season, is expected to make the trip north to Sacramento for Wednesday’s game.
He had eight points, seven rebounds and 12 assists before missing his last-second shot in the Thunder’s earlier visit to the Kings’ home.
Oklahoma City’s three-day, two-game trip continues Friday at Phoenix.
–Field Level Media