Kings fall into first-place tie with Lakers


PHOENIX (AP) -- Around the Phoenix Suns, Joe Johnson is called
"Fourth-Quarter Joe."

Johnson was exactly that Friday night, hitting three consecutive
3-pointers midway through the final period that lifted Phoenix to a
101-96 victory over Sacramento and dropped the Kings into a
first-place tie in the Pacific Division.

The loss, coupled with the Lakers' 103-95 win over Memphis, left
Los Angeles and Sacramento with identical 54-25 records. The two
teams meet Sunday at Sacramento.

The Kings, who have lost six of nine games, the Lakers and the
San Antonio Spurs all are 1{ games behind Minnesota in the race for
the best record in the West.

"They were all transition baskets," the tireless Johnson said
of his long-range shots. "I was open and my teammates were feeding
me the ball."

Johnson, who finished with 24 points, put Phoenix ahead for
good, 83-81, with his first from long range with 7:43 remaining,
after the Suns had squandered an 18-point, third-quarter lead.

"They got us in a big hole," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman
said, "and it's tough to come back from when you're down that far.
You spend a lot of energy coming back, but they had the answers."

Johnson's third 3, with 6:00 left, moved Phoenix in front 89-83,
and the Suns eventually increased the lead to 97-89 on a 3-pointer
by Leandro Barbosa with 2:19 to go.

But the Kings battled back and got within 97-96 on Peja
Stojakovic's layup with 11.2 seconds to play. The Suns' Shawn
Marion followed with two free throws with 10.3 seconds to go, then
Stojakovic missed a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining, hitting
the side of the backboard, before Johnson closed out the scoring
with two foul shots.

Amare Stoudemire had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns but
shot only 6-of-25. Marion finished with 20 points and nine
rebounds, Antonio McDyess had 14 points and a season-high 15
rebounds, and Barbosa scored 13.

Mike Bibby led the Kings with 26 points, Stojakovic scored 19,
Vlade Divac had 16 and Chris Webber 15. Brad Miller grabbed 15

"They shot the heck out of the 3," Adelman said of the Suns,
who were 10-for-17 from behind the arc.

Johnson was the top long-distance shooter for the Suns, going

"Joe came in and knocked down a few 3-pointers in a row and
that gave us the momentum to finish the game off strong,"
Stoudemire said.

Webber lamented the fact that the Kings couldn't beat one of the
league's worst teams.

"It's a tough loss and you just have to deal with it," he
said. "There's a lot on every game, so we just have to win and try
to sew up the season the best we can."

With Webber in the lineup since his return from knee surgery,
the Kings are only 10-10.

"Their chemistry is not 100 percent, but we will take the
win," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.

The Suns held a 55-45 lead at intermission as McDyess already
had a double-double -- 10 points and 11 rebounds, tying his season

Marion, returning after missing one game with bronchitis, and
Stoudemire each had 14 points at the break as the Suns shot 50
percent from the field (20-for-40) and were perfect at the foul
line (12-for-12).

The Kings hit only 40 percent (17-for-42), with Webber
(3-for-10) and Stojakovic (2-for-9) the worst offenders.

Phoenix built its advantage to 65-47 with 3:39 gone in the third
period, but the Kings, behind Bibby and Divac, cut the deficit to
two, 73-71, the final minute, before two baskets by Stoudemire gave
the Suns a 79-74 lead at the end of the quarter.

Bibby and Divac each scored 10 points for the Kings in the
period, including a rare 3-pointer by Divac.

Johnson played 45 minutes, the 32nd consecutive game he has
played 40 minutes or more. That tied him with Wilt Chamberlain for
13th place on the NBA's all-time list and is the longest streak
since Chamberlain played 34 in a row from March 22, 1970-Dec. 22,
^Notes@: Only nine players in NBA history, including Johnson, have a
string of 30 or more games playing at least 40 minutes, and seven
are in the Hall of Fame -- Nate Archibald, Chamberlain, John
Havlicek, Neil Johnston, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and Nate
Thurmond. The other is Anthony Mason. ... Chamberlain has the
record of 102 consecutive 40-minute games (he did it twice). ...
Johnson scored in double figures for the 41st consecutive game, the
fifth-best streak in the league. ... Bobby Jackson, Sacramento's
key backcourt reserve, missed the game because of abdominal