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12/29/2012 2:09 AM EST
Johnson makes 3 at Buzzer, Kings beat Knicks
SACRAMENTO 106, NEW YORK 105

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- James Johnson picked quite a dramatic
moment to make his first 3-pointer of the season.



Johnson had missed his first 11 3s this season, but his 12th
attempt won the game at the buzzer on Friday night, lifting the
Kings to a 106-105 victory over the New York Knicks after
blowing an early 27-point lead.



With time running out, John Salmons was trapped in the corner
and found Johnson above the top of the key. Johnson's shot left
his had just ahead of the final buzzer. The shot helped the
Kings avoid a collapse after building a big lead in the first
half.



"Isaiah (Thomas) hit John, but he couldn't take the shot, he was
crowded," explained Johnson, who had a season-high 17 points
that included seven in the fourth. "He looked at Francisco
(Garcia) as his first option and I was his second read. There
was no thinking after that - I had to shoot it. I knew it was
good as soon as it left my hand."



Johnson was a starting forward when the season began, but his
erratic outside shooting relegated him to the bench. However, he
has worked before and after practice to gain confidence in his
shot and it's showed of late. He's made 49 percent over the last
six games and is average 8.7 points.



Johnson, who came to the Kings in an offseason trade with
Toronto, converted 8 of 14 shots against the Knicks, most of
them on drives to the basket.



"It was a broken play and we made something out of it," said
Thomas of the game's hectic final 16 seconds. "J.J. made a huge
shot. We knew it was his first (3). I've been clowning with him
about it. I knew he hadn't made one yet."



Marcus Thornton scored 18 points and Cousins had 15 points and
10 rebounds for the Kings, who led by 21 points at intermission.
Jimmer Fredette also had 15 points and Thomas had 11 points and
nine assists for Sacramento, which made a season-high 15 of 30
3-pointers.



"We gambled a bit when the ball came out of the deep corner for
the steal," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "But we came up
empty and Johnson was able to get a free catch and shoot it."



The Knicks played their second straight game without an injured
Carmelo Anthony, who leads all Eastern Conference scorers,
averaging 28.5 points per game. Anthony has a hyperextended left
knee and his hoping to return Jan. 1 when the Knicks play
Portland at home.



J.R. Smith scored a season-high 28 points for the Knicks, who
outplayed the Kings throughout most of the second half. Rookie
Chris Copeland had 23 points and Tyson Chandler had 21 points
and 18 rebounds.



Knicks point guard Jason Kidd had 16 points, five assists and
seven rebounds. But he also committed a turnover on New York's
final possession.



"We got stagnant out there in the second half," Kings coach
Keith Smart said. "We played great early on, but the game
changed quickly in the second half."



After Garcia cut the Knicks lead to a point, Chandler made a
free throw and Copeland hit a jumper to put New York ahead
105-101 with 2:51 left. Two free throws by Thomas pulled the
Kings to 105-103 with 33 seconds remaining.



With a chance to pad its two-point lead, New York had a costly
turnover instead. Kidd's lob pass inside to Chandler was picked
off by an alert Cousins, who made a quick outlet pass to Thomas.



"I had Tyson wide open, it was an easy pass but I just turned it
over and they came back and capitalized on it," Kidd said.



New York was also without starting point guard Raymond Felton,
who has a broken left pinkie finger and is expected to miss at
least a month.



Cousins was back in the starting lineup after missing the
previous two games after Sacramento suspended him for
unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team
after a verbal confrontation with Smart during a game Dec. 21
against the Clippers.



"I wanted to get this thing behind us, get it over and move on,"
said Smart, explaining his decision to put Cousins back in the
starting lineup. "He was rusty, yes. But he made some big plays
down the stretch."



Chandler dunked on an alley-oop pass from Kidd midway through
the third quarter. The next time down the court, Kidd stepped
back for a 3-pointer, giving the Knicks a 97-95 lead, their
first lead since the opening minutes.



Smith scored 11 points in the third quarter when the Knicks used
a hustling defensive effort to outscore the Kings 31-16 and pull
to 87-81 heading into the fourth.



Following a lethargic first half, the Knicks showed much more
energy in cutting into Sacramento's 21-point halftime lead.
Back-to-back three-point plays by Smith and Chandler trimmed the
Kings lead to 85-77 with 2:17 left in the third.



Thornton scored 11 first-quarter points to help the Kings take
an 11-point lead into the second. Fredette took over the
offensive load in the second quarter, making three 3-pointers
and scoring 15 points, helping the Kings to a 71-50 lead at the
half.



"We buried ourselves in the first two quarters, then we decided
to defend in the third and fourth quarter," Woodson said. "We
got back in it and had control at the end. They made a great
shot."



Copeland and Smith had 13 points in the first half for the
Knicks, who trailed 68-41 late in the second quarter.



The Knicks poor perimeter defense in the opening half cost them
repeatedly with the Kings making 10-of-15 attempts and producing
a season high for points in one half. Sacramento shot nearly 60
percent overall and had 19 assists, another season-high for a
half.



NOTES: In the first quarter, the Kings connected on four
straight 3s in four possessions, building their lead to 26-14.
... Woodson was a starting guard for the inaugural Sacramento
team that relocated from Kansas City for the 1985-86 season. ...
Kings starting guard Tyreke Evans has missed six straight games
and 11 of the last 15 due to an injured left knee. He may try to
play Sunday against Boston. ... Knicks reserve forward Rasheed
Wallace was out with a sore left foot. ... The Knicks are hoping
injured forward Amar'e Stoudemire will return sometime next
week. A knee injury has kept Stoudemire inactive all season.

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