SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz were determined not to let DeMarcus Cousins touch the ball with the score tied and 4.1 seconds remaining on the clock. He’d basically been unstoppable the entire night.
That set up Rudy Gay’s game-winner.
Gay scored 24 points and hit the decisive shot with 0.9 seconds left to give the Sacramento Kings a 103-101 victory over the Jazz on Thursday.
Gay scored Sacramento’s last eight points.
"It is something I’ve always done in my career," he said. "I haven’t been able to make a game-winner since I’ve been here. But, it was good to see that one go in."
Cousins had his 21st double-double of the season with 36 points and 17 rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 13 assists and six rebounds for the Kings, one game behind Utah for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Gay sank a 17-foot fadeaway after Joe Ingles’ 3-pointer tied the score at 101 with 4.1 seconds left.
"It is the NBA, baby. I watch the same screenplay twice a night," Kings coach George Karl said. "Leads on the road don’t last. I thought we could’ve had a chance at a really close game. We can’t give them three three-point plays in the last three possessions. It is just flabbergasting.
"I am happy we won and I think, again, it is a process."
Rookie forward Trey Lyles scored a career-high 19 points for the Jazz, and Gordon Hayward had 21 despite shooting 4 for 17 from the field. Rookie point guard Raul Neto tied a career high with 13 points.
The Kings jumped out to a 26-12 first-quarter lead as the Jazz played, arguably, their worst quarter of the season. Utah shot 4 for 24 from the floor for a season-low 16.7 field goal percentage in a single quarter. The Jazz were also 1 for 13 from behind the arc.
Things weren’t any better on the other end for Utah as the Kings shot 55.6 per cent from the field, including nine dunks or layups among 10 field goals.
"We got a lot of good looks, just couldn’t knock them down," Hayward said. "I haven’t had that many good looks all year. For whatever reason we just couldn’t convert. Then we let them get behind us way too many times. Seems like they were getting layups and dunks and easy stuff.
"Just a disastrous start for us."
The Jazz chipped away in the second quarter thanks to Lyles and Neto, using a 10-3 run late to go into halftime trailing 56-45.
Utah’s only lead came at 3-2.
"I told the team there’s two sides to the coin," coach Quin Snyder said. "In one sense, it shows incredible resolve and toughness and togetherness to be able to battle back under these circumstances. … We did some things to ourselves early in the game that contributed to that. And that made it hard."
Kings: C Kosta Koufos was drafted by the Jazz in the 2008 first round and spent two seasons in Utah. … Marco Belinelli scored 11 off the bench. … The Kings were outscored 30-21 in the fourth quarter.
Jazz: Derrick Favours missed his 12th game with a back injury. … F Trevor Booker suffered a concussion and is in the NBA’s concussion protocol. … The Jazz were 6 for 34 from 3-point range. … Utah’s top two offensive options, Hayward and Rodney Hood, were a combined 9 for 31. … The team’s 12 first-quarter points tied a season low for any quarter.
HELP ON D
Karl inserted Willie Cauley-Stein back into the lineup to make his 15th start of the season. "Defensively we need to get better and Willie played very active last night," Karl said. "We started him before he got hurt, so we’re kind of messing around trying to find the perfect lineup. Right now we don’t have that yet. … We have weaknesses and his skills are at the defensive end of the court where probably more of our priorities are right now."
The Jazz ranked No. 19 in the NBA in scoring defence, allowing 100.8 points per game, in the 18 games Rudy Gobert missed with an MCL sprain. Going into Thursday, the Jazz ranked No. 1 in the league, allowing 89.8 points, in the four games since his return.
Cauley-Stein and Lyles were members of the Kentucky team that went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinal last year. Cauley-Stein was selected No. 6 overall in the draft and Lyles went No. 12. Cousins and Rondo are also former Wildcats.
The Kings travel to face the Clippers on Saturday.
The Jazz host the Lakers on Saturday.