SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Marcus Thornton scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and the Sacramento Kings opened the season in grand fashion, beating the Los Angeles Lakers at home for the first time in more than three years, 100-91 on Monday night.
Tyreke Evans added 20 points, John Salmons had 13 and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who had lost nine of 10 to the Lakers and five straight at home.
Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and Metta World Peace added 19 for the Lakers, who opened the season with consecutive losses for the first time since 2002-03, putting a damper on the start of new coach Mike Brown’s tenure.
Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette entered to a loud ovation midway through the first quarter and then committed a double dribble the first time he touched the ball.
Otherwise, it was nothing but a positive start to the season for the Kings, who didn’t even know if they would be in Sacramento after ending last season with an overtime loss at home to the Lakers.
But the city got a reprieve when the team decided to stay for at least one more season instead of moving to Anaheim. That has led to newfound optimism that an emerging roster of young and athletic playmakers can return the Kings to prominence and the city can build a new arena to keep the team in California’s capital city for the long term.
That roster gave the fans plenty to cheer about in the Kings’ first season opener at home in eight years. They went on an 11-0 run around halftime and then put together a strong finish to the third quarter led by Cousins. Playing with four fouls, Cousins scored eight points in the final 3:20 of the third to give Sacramento a 78-64 lead heading into the fourth.
Thornton scored seven of the Kings’ first nine points of the fourth as Sacramento maintained its lead. But six straight points by World Peace helped the Lakers cut it to 89-87 with 4:24 to play.
Thornton hit a 3-pointer to give the Kings some breathing room and Chuck Hayes had a key block on Pau Gasol leading to two free throws by Evans. The Lakers never got the deficit to less than five points after that. Thornton’s jumper made it 99-89 with 1:10 to go, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Los Angeles doesn’t have to wait long to get a chance for its first win in this lockout-compacted season, as the Lakers host Utah on Tuesday night with their third game in three nights to open the season.
The Kings took a 49-40 halftime lead, giving the sellout crowd even more to cheer about than just the fact that the Kings are still in town. Sacramento scored the final seven points of the half, capped by Evans’ drive for a one-handed scoop with 5.9 seconds remaining.
The Kings frustrated the Lakers at the other end of the court all half, holding them to 36.4 percent shooting including an uncharacteristic 4-for-13 performance from Bryant.
Sacramento even had success matching 5-foot-9 rookie Isaiah Thomas on Bryant on a few possessions in the second quarter despite a 9-inch height disadvantage. After missing a turnaround jumper over the shorter Thomas, Bryant could only manage to chuckle on his way back down the court.
Notes: The Kings have won six straight home openers. … Mayor Kevin Johnson, who helped keep the Kings in Sacramento this season, was presented a jersey from owners Joe and Gavin Maloof. … Bryant got called for a technical foul in the third quarter when he threw his hands in frustration after being fouled on a dunk attempt by J.J. Hickson.