Kings host Portland in first game at renamed arena

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Kings host Portland in first game at renamed arena

March 2, 2011

PORTLAND (33-27) vs.
KINGS (15-43)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have a new name for their home arena, but it isn't clear if they'll play there after this season.

While that relocation drama plays out over the next two months, the Kings will try to build on an emotional home victory and deny the Portland Trail Blazers a fifth consecutive road win Wednesday night.

Sacramento (15-43) will play its first game at Power Balance Pavilion when it hosts Portland (33-27). That comes after the NBA gave the Kings until April 18 to decide if they plan to relocate before next season.

RELATED: NBA extends relocation deadline for Kings

The franchise is in talks with Anaheim, which is looking for an NBA team to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Ducks. In response, Sacramento fans organized a "Here We Stay" campaign and packed the former Arco Arena for Monday's 105-99 comeback win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We just wanted to go out there and play well and win the game for our fans," forward Omri Casspi said after the team's second sellout this season. "We talked about it with (coach Paul Westphal) and it was important for us to come and play aggressive and play well."

Marcus Thornton had 16 of his season-best 29 points in the fourth quarter to lead his team to its third win in 13 games and snap a five-game home losing streak.

REWIND: Furious fourth-quarter rally leads Kings past Clips

The guard is averaging 19.3 points in three games since coming over from New Orleans in a trade. Thornton was averaging 7.8 points in 46 games with the Hornets.

"They got me the ball in spots where I can be effective," Thornton said. "This is a young team that likes to have fun. It's been easy for me to get acclimated real fast."

It's unknown if the Kings' renamed arena will see another capacity crowd and the Kings could have a little trouble earning another win there against the Blazers.

Portland enters this game tied for seventh in the Western Conference and is on its longest road win streak in one season since taking five in a row Nov. 1-14, 2009.

The Blazers, though, have lost three of four overall and were handled 103-87 by visiting Houston on Tuesday night. Portland failed to top 88 points in the second straight game after averaging 104.1 over its previous eight.

"We've been a team that scrapped and had movement and energy and hustle," coach Nate McMillan said. "Our last two games, we haven't been close to that."

The Blazers also struggled offensively in their previous meeting with the Kings, shooting 39.5 percent in a 96-81 loss Jan. 24. That defeat snapped Portland's eight-game win streak over Sacramento.

Leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (22.3 ppg) registered only nine points in the loss and had one of his worst performances since that game Tuesday with 14 points. He's averaged 16.5 on 44.0 percent shooting in his last two games after averaging 31.9 on 59.3 percent shooting in his previous seven.

Aldridge scored 23 points and Nicolas Batum had a season-high 24 in a 94-90 overtime win over the Kings on Jan. 19, Portland's fourth in a row in Sacramento.

Report: Kings expected to waive Matt Barnes

Report: Kings expected to waive Matt Barnes

Programming note: Watch Vlade Divac's press conference today at 12:30pm streaming live right here.

Matt Barnes has reportedly drawn the short straw.

The Kings are expected to waive Barnes, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

After Sunday’s blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans and picks, the Kings have some housekeeping to do. Per NBA rules, they must waive a player to make room for the three incoming players.

Barnes, 36, signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Kings during the summer, with a player option for the second season. Sacramento is allowed to use the stretch provision for Barnes’ salary, breaking it up over a five-year stretch.

A Sacramento native, Barnes not only became a locker room leader this season for the Kings, but head coach Dave Joerger relied heavily on the veteran as injuries piled up. 

Barnes averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 25.3 minutes through 54 games, including 13 starts.

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

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USATSI

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.