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Kings 106, Knicks 105: James Johnson’s Three at the Buzzer Wins the Game and I Still Can’t Believe It

Sacramento put up 71 points in the first half and led by as much as 27, only to see their lead entirely disappear in the second half as New York surged. But all's well that ends well, and James Johnson saved the day with a game winning three at the buzzer.
By | 0 Comments | Feb 22, 2019

This was one of the craziest and most improbable games I've watched, let alone attended. Before we dig deeper, let me summarize the craziness of the game:

1. The Kings scored 71 points in the first half.

2. The Kings led by as much as 27 points in the first half and were up 21 at halftime.

3. The Kings proceeded to entirely lose the lead and fall behind by four points in the final minutes.

4. James Johnson, 0 for 11 from three for the year, hits the game winning three at the buzzer.

The only sequence above that I can look at and make sense of is the fact that the Kings blew a big lead, because that happens all the time. But as for the other three, I'm not sure I'd believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, in person.

The Knicks managed to chip away at the lead in the final minute of the half thanks to three triples, including one by Kidd at the buzzer, but Sacramento still seemed in charge with a 21 point lead. The Kings at that point were shooting well above 50% from the field and were absolutely scorching hot from outside, making 10 of 15 threes. Common sense dictated that the Kings could not keep up that pace, and common sense prevailed.

The Kings regressed to the mean hard in the second half. There was a return to isolation basketball as the Knicks defense tightened and cut off the Kings first and second options, and New York simply kept playing their inside-out game to perfection. The success of the first half was heavily dependent on all the shots Sacramento was making; The defense still managed to give up 50 points. So with the defense still lacking and the offense not clicking, New York mounted their comeback. By the end of the quarter, Sacramento's 21 point lead was just six and New York had the ball to start the fourth. Things were not looking great.

The final play New York ran was a simple one that they've run to perfection multiple times this year and even during this game: A high pick and roll between Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler. Chandler came up top to set the screen for Kidd and then immediately went to the basket where Kidd attempted to throw a lob to him. Fortunately, DeMarcus Cousins completely redeemed himself for his horrible offensive possessions earlier in the quarter by rotating back with Chandler and using his long arms to snatch the pass out of the air. At this point there was about 16 seconds left in the game.

Here's video of the full final sequence:

It was a crazy finish to a crazy game, and one I will not soon forget. Johnson deserves credit not only for the shot, but for keeping the ball alive and simply having a very good game before then. His 17 points were a season-high and he added 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block to boot. He made a couple of bad decisions throughout, but overall his performance was indicative of improvement we've seen throughout the past couple weeks.

Another highlight for Sacramento was the continued ball movement, even with the return of Cousins. Cousins actually ended up leading the team in assists with 5 to go with his 15 point, 10 rebound double-double. The team as a whole had 28, a mark the Kings met in every game this week. They also kept the turnovers to a minimum with just 11.

Other Notes:

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