Thompson's put-back slam off a DeMarcus Cousins miss --- his only basket of the night --- snapped a tie with 41.5 seconds left in the final quarter and lifted the SACRAMENTO Kings to a 90-88 victory over the Denver Nuggets in the season opener for both teams.
Cousins' miss was one of few for the mercurial third-year center out of Kentucky. He finished with a game-high 30 points and 14 rebounds. Greivis Vasquez added 17 points for the Kings and Isaiah Thomas had 16, including two key 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions early in the fourth quarter.
The Kings' victory gave head coach Michael Malone a victory in his NBA coaching debut and spoiled the coaching debut of new Nuggets coach Brian Shaw.
The Kings were playing their first regular-season game in SACRAMENTO since the team was sold to Silicon Valley tycoon Vivek Ranadive in May. Until that transaction, it appeared the Kings were bound for Seattle after former owners Gavin and Joe Maloof nearly sold the team to Seattle investors Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer.
The kickoff to the Kings' new era attracted a sellout. New minority owner Shaquille O'Neal delivered a message on the arena scoreboard to the fans, and Mayor Kevin Johnson gave NBA commissioner David Stern an honorary key to the city.
Thomas hit back-to-back 3-pointers to lift Kings to a 77-72 lead with 9:25 left. Cousins' own put-back slam and Thomas' jumper from the wing stretched the lead to 88-82 with 3:09 left. But Denver scored the next six points, setting the stage for Thomas' heroics.
Cousins and Vasquez fed the frenzied atmosphere at the start by scoring SACRAMENTO's first 14 points over the game's first 5:49. Cousins powered home an alley-oop during the the spurt, and the Kings grabbed a 14-5 lead.
NOTES: O'Neal said before the game that he has spoken often with Cousins since the summer and told him the Kings will work to help Cousins take on a leadership role. O'Neal and Ranadive said the Kings would like to build their future around Cousins, a 23-year-old center who averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds last and is trying to put past suspensions behind him. ... O'Neal, who once famously labeled SACRAMENTO the "Queens" when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, said he always has loved the fans in SACRAMENTO. "This was always the toughest place to play," he said. ... Ranadive announced his team has launched a new Kings App, which includes live-time scores, stats, an arena seat map and a digital cowbell. ... SACRAMENTO mayor Kevin Johnson presented a key to the city to NBA commissioner David Stern before the game. ... Lawson, who dealt with a groin injury during camp, was cleared to start. Anthony Randolph started at small forward in place of Wilson Chandler. ... The Nuggets formally announced they exercised the contract options on Evan Fournier and Kenneth Faried.