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.