By Morris Phillips
No Luka? For the Sacramento Kings that late, injury news appeared to be the opening needed for a victorious Saturday afternoon in North Texas.
But the Mavericks taking the floor without their singular superstar and his 27 points a game wasn’t the determining factor. The fact that the Mavs–winners of 22 of 29–are red hot was.
Dallas overcame a 19-point deficit and shocked the Kings in the game’s final minute, winning 114-113.
De’Aaron Fox scored a game-best 44 points and his jumper with 2:55 remaining gave the Kings a 110-103 lead. But they would miss their next five shots and commit a turnover, putting the Mavs in position to steal it.
Spencer Dinwiddie hit a jumper to cap an 8-0 run for Dallas that gave them a 111-110 lead. Then after Fox made one of two free throws, Dorian Finney-Smith hit a 3-pointer to give the Mavs a 114-111 lead with three seconds left.
Harrison Barnes attempted a long 3 and missed, and the rebound was scooped up by Justin Holiday, who scored from under the basket just ahead of the final horn.
Dinwiddie scored 36 points in just his fifth game with Dallas after he was main piece coming back from Washington in the trade of Kristaps Porzingis. The gifted scorer moved into the starting lineup for Doncic, but the hosts started slow, and trailed the Kings 65-51 at halftime.
“We want Luka playing, and it took us some time to get used to him not being on the floor,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I thought the guys got their legs, and got their rhythm without Luka out there. It helps us – makes us a better team – but hopefully Luka’s back Monday.”
“I do what I do, and I don’t do what I’m not supposed to do,” Dinwiddie said. “That goes 1-through-15. Everybody here follows that type of mentality because we understand that to not just win basketball games in the regular season, but in the playoffs, you need that.”
Domantas Sabonis was the Kings only other bright spot offensively with 15 points, 10 rebounds but he wore down late against the defense of Finney-Smith.
With the loss, the Kings saddled themselves with a 16th consecutive losing season that will likely be joined by a just as lengthy streak of missing the playoffs. At 24-42 only a torrid finish with just two or three losses would put them in position to pass Portland, New Orleans and San Antonio and move into the 10th spot and a two-game shot at a playoff berth.
On Monday, the Kings return to the Golden 1 Center to host the Knicks at 7:00pm.