Kings head coach Keith Smart addresses the media following the Kings win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Keith Smart's tenure as head coach of the Kings began in rousing fashion Thursday night as the Kings came from 21 points down at halftime to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 103-100, at Power Balance Pavilion.
It had already been a hectic day around the Kings organization, as the team announced this morning it had fired head coach Paul Westphal, then named Smart the Kings' new head coach just hours before tip-off.
After a sluggish second quarter in which they scored just 12 points, the Kings trailed the Bucks by a score of 58-37 at halftime.
But the Kings cut the deficit to 14 points at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Bucks 35-18 in the final period to complete a furious comeback in front of a crowd of 11,813 at Power Balance Pavilion.
The Kings pulled to within one point of Milwaukee at 100-99 with 44.4 seconds left on an 18-foot jump shot by forward John Salmons.
Following a missed jumper by Bucks guard Beno Udrih, Marcus Thornton grabbed the rebound and Tyreke Evans was fouled under the basket on the other end. Evans, who had struggled mightily with free-throw shooting through the Kings' first several games, made both foul shots to give the Kings their first lead since the first quarter, 101-100.
Evans made two more free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining to put the Kings ahead 103-100, and Brandon Jennings' three-point attempt to send the game into overtime clanged off the front of the rim.
Jennings finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-23 shooting, and was 6-of-10 from three-point range for the Bucks.
Thornton scored 25 of his team-high 27 points for the Kings in the second half. Evans had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
"First I want to say that these guys played five games in six nights and found the energy to play a pace that we're trying to develop," Smart said. "I tip my hat to them. ... What these guys have done, they've proven and shown that they want it. They want it, we've just got to grow it."
Several players said the Kings (3-5) settled into more of a flow on offense than in previous games, scoring 66 points in the second half.
"It felt like we were just out there playing free, but we've just got to keep working with (Smart)," Evans said. "He's a great coach and he's planning new things for guys to get looks at the rim and looks at the basket."
Kings forward-center Chuck Hayes left the game in the second quarter with a dislocated left shoulder.
Gooden finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds for the Bucks, who fell to 2-4.
-- Matt Kawahara