SACRAMENTO, Calif -- The SACRAMENTO Kings weren't about to discount the significance of their 108-103 overtime victory over the Miami Heat at Sleep Train Arena on Friday night, never mind that the defending NBA champions were far from being whole.
The way the Kings responded helped the franchise end a half-decade of frustration against the Heat and proved that forward LeBron James and Miami aren't invincible against the Western Conference. The Kings, who trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, opened the extra frame with a 13-5 run and held on to beat Miami for the first time since March 2, 2008.
Center DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 17 rebounds for his third straight double-double and 16th of the season for SACRAMENTO. Gay finished with 26 points, and his length defensively seemed to frustrate James in the second half.
Miami played without guards Dwyane Wade (sore knees) and Ray Allen (right knee tendinities) and forward Chris Andersen (tight back) but still jumped out to a 23-6 lead in the opening quarter and seemed ready to cruise to another victory against the Western Conference.
Instead, the Heat's 19-game winning streak against Western Conference opponents ended with a thud despite a game-high 33 points from forward LeBron James. Miami was trying to tie the Boston Celtics' run of 20 in a row set from Feb. 11-Nov. 23, 1973, for the longest such streak by an Eastern Conference team in NBA history.
James, the league's four-time MVP scored 19 points in the first half and canned three straight 3-pointers late in overtime after SACRAMENTO built a 104-97 lead. But he said he strained his groin in the second half and was uncertain whether he could play in Miami's game Saturday at Portland.
SACRAMENTO, which lost its last eight to Miami by at least 10 points, made 11 of its 16 shots in the third quarter in erasing a 55-45 halftime deficit. Point guard Isaiah Thomas also got going after intermission, scored 15 of his 22 points and handing out eight of his 11 assists in the game's final 29 minutes.
"It shows that it's tough to guard all three of those guys," Kings coach Michael Malone said, referring to Gay, Thomas and Cousins. "I ran Rudy the whole second half, and he came up with some big baskets for us. He played some decent defense on LeBron."
Gay canned a shot from the left corner of the key to tie the game 89-89 at halftime, moments after he stripped James at the other end. For much of the second half, Gay fronted James, and the Heat guard became alarmingly invisible at the offensive end.
"We wanted to back up off him and force him to make contested jumpers," Malone said. "He beat us way too easy off his dribble in the first half, and we knew that was something that needed to change."
Cousins scored on put-backs of two offensive rebounds in the overtime, and also made 1 of 2 free throws after a flagrant foul was called on Mario Chalmers on Cousins down low in the key. Cousins received a technical foul in the first half, his NBA-leading ninth of the season, after a similarly hard foul that wasn't called a flagrant.
"He is who he is, an emotional player who hates to lose," Malone said. "He came up with some huge plays, not with just scoring, but with offensive and defensive rebounds."
NOTES: Heat G Dwyane Wade sat out as he continues to take at least one night off in back-to-back games because of balky knees. Wade, who has played 21 of the Heat's 29 games, is expected to play at Portland on Saturday. ... Heat G Ray Allen (sore right knee) missed his fourth game of the season and F-C Chris Andersen (back tightness) missed his second for Miami. .... The Kings played the first of consecutive games against last season's NBA finalists. They face the San Antonio Spurs in Texas on Sunday. The last time SACRAMENTO faced the previous NBA finalists in two straight games was in 2005 when they played the Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. ... SACRAMENTO G Isaiah Thomas made a 3-pointer in his 22nd consecutive game, the third-longest active streak in the NBA and the fourth longest in franchise history. ... The Kings gave up at least 28 points in the first quarter for the eighth consecutive game.