Vintage Carter leads Kings past Cavs
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Call it the Vince Carter Game.
That’s how Sacramento fans will remember his 24-point performance Wednesday in the Kings’ improbable 109-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It undoubtedly wasn’t the first time the 40-year-old guard took over a game in his 19-year career — but it was the first time he did so with the Kings.
Carter, who missed the team’s previous three games — two by coach’s decision and one as a result of rib pain — received multiple standing ovations from the Golden 1 Center crowd. He finished 10 of 12 from the field, 4 of 5 from the 3-point arc, sinking big-time shots to answer almost every Cleveland attempt to cut into the lead.
His 24 points were the most he has scored since he had 24 last March as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. Carter is the first NBA player over the age of 40 to score 20-plus points off the bench.
“I mean, he made some bombs,” Cleveland All-Star LeBron James said of Carter. “He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason. Let’s not take that for granted. Once he got going, we couldn’t slow him down.”
Carter had seven points and two key assists in the fourth quarter as Sacramento held off a Cavs team that took its first back-to-back losses since snapping a four-game skid on Nov. 3. James finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. His 16 points matched his lowest output of the season from a late October loss to the New York Knicks.
Sacramento (12-22) took an 85-80 lead into the fourth quarter after Carter sank a 3-pointer from the corner off of an inbounds play with 1.3 seconds to go in the third. The Kings pushed the margin as high as 14, leading 101-87 with 5:38 to go in the game — on another 3-pointer from Carter.
“We had a disappointing loss last night,” Carter said referring to Sacramento’s 122-95 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night. “Coach said to the guys, ‘If you get the call tonight, be ready to go.’”
Carter logged 29:40 of playing time on the night. It was his second-most minutes played this season and only the third time in 21 games that he exceeded 20 minutes. He equaled his season-high point total (nine) by halftime, but he saved his biggest moments for late in the third quarter and much of the fourth.
“That’s Vince,” said Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who after starting the previous five games came off the bench to post 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. “It’s VC. He’s known to do that stuff. If he gets the minutes, and if he gets the ball, he’s going to make stuff happen.”
The Kings got a bit of revenge for a Dec. 6 loss at Cleveland in which a lead after three quarters got away from them. The Cavaliers outscored Sacramento 28-17 in the fourth quarter that night to win by six.
“Probably the most fun I’ve had this year on the basketball court,” Kings forward Garrett Temple said of the Wednesday game. Temple had the defensive assignment against James for much of the night. “To see how many people played and put their imprint on the game offensively and defensively, and to see Vince come out and play the way he played, that was a good, good win for us.”
Cleveland (24-11), which trailed by as much 13 in the first half, opened the second half on a 12-2 run to grab its first lead since the first quarter. The flurry came on four 3-pointers, two each from Kevin Love (21 points) and J.R. Smith (15 points) — with assists from James on all four.
Love, who was coming off a Christmas Day effort at Golden State in which he scored 31 points on a season-high six 3-pointers and added a season-high 18 rebounds, scored 11 in the first quarter Wednesday to help push Cleveland out to early leads of 12-4 and 23-18.
However, the Kings finished the quarter on top 28-27 after rookie guard Bogdan Bogdanovich sank a buzzer-beating 20-footer from the right wing. Bogdanovich wound up with 16 points and eight assists off the bench.
It was an incredibly balanced effort for the Kings. Sacramento coach Dave Joerger played 10 players, and all 10 of them scored. Seven of those players scored eight or more as the team shot 51.9 percent from the field and 40 percent (12 of 30) from beyond the arc.
“It’s fun. It’s fun for our fans,” Carter said. “It was electric in there, and the energy was great. It was weird, you started the game you see a lot of Cavs jerseys, and at the end of the game you look up and see purple everywhere.”
NOTES: Kings G Malachi Richardson and rookie G Frank Mason III started for the first time in their career. The duo became the 12th and 13th players to earn a start for Dave Joerger’s club this season. They each scored four points. ... Wednesday’s matchup featured four of the 11 active players with at least 18,000 career points: Cleveland’s LeBron James (29,689) and Dwyane Wade (21,648) and Sacramento’s Vince Carter (24,612) and Zach Randolph (18,187).