Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 12/14

Game 1: Sunday, December 14th
Game 2: Friday, January 9th
Game 3: Sunday, February 29th
Game 4: Friday, April 9th

Kings 96

(54-25, 21-18 away)

Suns 101

(27-52, 17-22 home)

    7:30 PM ET, April 9, 2004

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    SAC 23 22 29 2296
    PHX 28 27 24 22101

    Top Performers

    Sac: B. Miller 9 Pts, 15 Reb, 6 Ast, 2 Stl

    PHX: J. Johnson 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

    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 rebounds.

    "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 4-of-6.

    "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 high.

    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, 1970.< ^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 soreness.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 96 101
    FGM-FGA 36-81 (.444) 35-81 (.432)
    3PM-3PA 6-18 (.333) 10-17 (.588)
    FTM-FTA 18-22 (.818) 21-28 (.750)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-42 14-47
    Assists 20 23
    Turnovers 17 16
    Steals 7 11
    Blocks 6 4
    Fast Break Points 3 6
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 22 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Brad Miller Miller
    Points: 9
    Reb: 15
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0
    Joe Johnson Johnson
    Points: 24
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0