SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- So, J.R. Smith, what was it like winning a game at the buzzer Wednesday, then watching your team lose at the buzzer two nights later?
"Karma, quickly,'' the Knicks guard said. "It comes back around fast.''
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But what happened here made Smith's off-balance shot against the Suns seem tame in comparison. That one merely untied an otherwise ordinary game.
On Friday night, James Johnson's three-pointer that gave the Kings a 106-105 victory at Sleep Train Arena came with his team trailing by two points, and it followed a devastating turnover by future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, which followed the Kings falling behind by five points late in the fourth quarter, which followed Sacramento taking a 27-point lead late in the first half.
Oh, by the way: Before Friday night, Johnson was 0-for-11 on three-point shots this season.
"That's the toughest way to lose,'' Steve Novak said. "You'd rather lose by 40 than lose on a game-winner. That's going to sting for a while.''
The Knicks (21-9), playing their third game in four days on the West Coast and without injured starters Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton, looked awful in the first half, allowing a stunning 71 points to the lowly Kings (10-19).
In the second quarter alone, Sacramento was 16-for-21 from the field, including 6-for-8 on three-point tries. "We were awful in the first half,'' said coach Mike Woodson, whose team fell behind 68-41 with 1:22 left in the second quarter.
Then, suddenly, the Kings went cold and the Knicks started playing defense, allowing only 35 points in the second half. The visitors led 105-101 as the clock wound under two minutes, and the Knicks were poised for their biggest comeback victory in the 20 years for which the team has records for that.
After two misses by Smith that could have extended the lead to six, the Kings' Isaiah Thomas hit two free throws with 33.2 seconds left to make it 105-103.
Kidd tried to lob the ball inside to Tyson Chandler but couldn't get it over DeMarcus Cousins, who had returned for the game after being suspended by the team following an argument with coach Keith Smart. Cousins picked off the pass with 15.8 seconds left.
"I had Tyson wide-open,'' Kidd said. "It was an easy pass. I just turned it over and they capitalized on it. It was a bad pass. It happens. Tyson was open and I didn't get it to him.''
Said Chandler: "I thought it was a good look. We had just executed the same play and got a dunk. DeMarcus came up with a solid defensive play.''
Thomas missed a jump shot at the other end as the clock wound down, and Johnson missed a short shot. A mad scramble ensued, with the Knicks, notably Novak, having chances at steals.
Finally, John Salmons passed out of the corner and found Johnson beyond the arc at the top of the key. He shot in desperation. The ball went in, sparking a deafening roar out of the Kings' glory days of the early 2000s.
"I've been practicing a lot of shots, but you can never prepare for the last shot like that,'' Johnson said. "But as soon as it left my hands, I knew it was good . . . It was a last-minute shot, my first three, so some could say luck, but I worked on it.''
Said Woodson: "A two doesn't hurt you. The only thing that beats you is a three, and we gambled when the ball came out of the deep corner for a steal and came up empty and Johnson was able to get a free catch and shoot it. It's a game of inches, boy, I tell you. But we'll bounce back.''
So what would have been a rousing, record-breaking victory by a shorthanded team on the road turned into a dispiriting defeat.
"We've had those games sometimes when you want to get back home on a road trip,'' Kidd said. "It happens in this league. You start flat. But again, it's 48 minutes and we had a chance to win one on the road.''
The Knicks' leading scorers both came off the bench. Smith had 28 (in 43 minutes) and Chris Copeland 23 (in 41 minutes). Chandler had 21 points and 18 rebounds, but he was 3-for-9 from the free-throw line.
The Knicks outrebounded the Kings 46-34 but committed 17 turnovers, five by Kidd. Backup point guard Pablo Prigioni had no points, nine assists and one turnover in 18 minutes.
"We messed up the first half,'' Smith said. "You can't have halves like that where they score 71 points in the first half. That can't happen . . . I wish we could have turned the switch on earlier instead of when it's too late. It [stinks], honestly. It is what it is. It's a bad feeling, a bad taste in your mouth.
"It's one of those games when you come down to playoff time and you need that one or two games to get home court or a better seed, it's going to hurt when you look back . . . It's tough.''