Capitals

Johnson makes 3 at Buzzer, Kings beat Knicks

201212282329845531913-p2.jpeg

Johnson makes 3 at Buzzer, Kings beat Knicks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) James Johnson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer Friday night, lifting the Sacramento Kings to a 106-105 victory over the New York Knicks after blowing an early 27-point lead.

With time running out, John Salmons found Johnson above the top of the key and 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.

Marcus Thornton scored 18 points and Johnson had 17 for the Kings.

The Knicks played their second straight game without 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.

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

After Francisco 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.

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 coach Keith Smart during a Dec. 21 game against the Clippers.

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 game's 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.

Copeland and Smith had 13 first-half points 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 threes in four possessions, building their lead to 26-14. . Knicks coach Mike 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.

Quick Links

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek will play in NHL's round robin, but Capitals' Stanley Cup hopes rest with Braden Holtby

Brought up to replace the injured Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek's first taste of NHL hockey will come inside the bubble in Toronto. Not exactly the best of circumstances. 

But Vanecek plays an important role on a Capitals team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Should Braden Holtby struggle or get hurt during the playoffs, Washington will need its young back-up goalie to keep their team afloat and let his talented skaters take it from there.

That's why NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May, during an appearance with The Sports Junkies Tuesday, looks forward to seeing Vanecek play a little bit in the round-robin portion of the NHL restart. Ideally, though, it stops there.

"[Vanecek] probably will get one of these games, [the Capitals] said that from the start," May said. "But I hope he doesn't play once they get to the playoff rounds. I think it would be wise to play him in [round robin] games, it's not the end of the world what the seeding is in this. He's a good size goaltender, I think he's about 6'2, and with the training that he's had, he's worked on the fundamentals of his game, he's gotten his conditioning up. He looks very similar to Holtby in net, He's gotten a lot of good reps in American Hockey [League] just like Holtby did around the same age."

And what's the reason why no Caps fan should want to see Vanecek in the postseason? It's simple really. Because this team's best chance at another title revolves around Holtby being a steady and stifling presence between the pipes throughout the playoffs. 

RELATED: PHYSICALITY THE KEY FOR CAPITALS IN PLAYOFFS

"I think the big thing with this is you really don't want to see [Vanecek] in the net after the round robin," he said. "If they're going to win this thing, it's gonna have to be Braden Holtby getting 16 wins. To me, the most important thing is that Holtby plays in the playoffs, the guy's dynamite, no leaky goals out of him."

This could be Holtby's last playoff run with the Capitals as he enters a contract year. The Caps already committed long term money to Nicklas Backstrom this season, they have an Alex Ovechkin extension to worry about and the flat salary cap certainly won't do them any favors either. Not to mention the presence of Samsonov after a stellar rookie season. 

So if this is it, if this is Holtby's last dance in Washington, he at least looks ready to play his best hockey when it matters most.  

"He looks focused and dialed in, and he wants to make sure if he's going out and won't be a Capital anymore he wants to go home with a victory in his last game."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be. 

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL NEWS