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Bjelica’s 3 at buzzer lifts Kings over Rockets

Nemanja Bjelica drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Sacramento Kings claimed a 119-118 victory over the host Houston Rockets on Monday at Toyota Center.

Bjelica drilled a 33-footer off an inbound pass from Cory Joseph to answer a driving layup from Rockets guard Russell Westbrook on the preceding possession. Bjelica scored over PJ Tucker to cap his 17-point performance and the Kings finished 20 of 45 from behind the arc to win two of three legs of the Texas triangle. They lost 105-104 in overtime at San Antonio on Friday before winning 110-106 at Dallas on Sunday.

Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points, primarily on driving layups as the Kings offered scant rim protection. His basket countered a game-tying 3 from Kings guard Buddy Hield (team-high 26 points), whose trey matched a 3 from Ben McLemore with 22.7 seconds left.

The Rockets had won 18 of 20 meetings against the Kings, who received 19 points and eight rebounds from Harrison Barnes and 16 points plus eight rebounds from Richaun Holmes. Joseph added 14 points and six assists.

James Harden paired 27 points with 10 assists for the Rockets while Tucker grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds to go with 10 points. Clint Capela also had a double-double with 13 points and 17 rebounds.

Early energy enabled the Kings to recover from a wobbly start. Scoreless over the opening two-plus minutes, Sacramento darted to an 18-10 lead courtesy of four 3s from four different players: Bjelica, Barnes, Hield and Joseph. When Trevor Ariza added back-to-back 3s off the Sacramento bench late in the first quarter, the Kings led 32-23 and it wasn’t until several minutes into the second quarter that the Rockets managed a response.

Gary Clark provided Houston a boost off the bench with 11 points in six minutes across the first two quarters. A temporary answer discovered, the Rockets finished 8 for 19 from behind the arc in the second quarter and led 54-43 when Harden completed a three-point play with 4:56 remaining in the first half.

But the Kings offered a reply with four consecutive 3s, two from Joseph, and Houston needed 3-pointers from Westbrook and McLemore down the stretch to carry a 64-59 lead into the break.

–Field Level Media