OAKLAND, Calif. - On any other night, David Lee's 5-second violation in the final moments might've cost the Golden State Warriors a win. It was the kind of head-scratching turnover almost nobody can top.
Except the Sacramento Kings.
Isaiah Thomas dribbled the ball of his leg attempting a crossover against Lee on the next possession, handing the Warriors a 111-108 victory in a turnover-filled finish typical of two teams at the bottom of the Pacific Division.
"It's a great learning experience, but it's no fun unless you win them," Lee said. "You can have all the learning experiences you want and never win a game."
The learning curve is large in Northern California these days.
Lee finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists — one shy of his third career triple-double — and rookie Klay Thompson scored a career-best 31 points to help the Warriors take the season series 3-1 against the Kings. Thompson's previous career high of 27 points came three days earlier in a win at New Orleans.
"We made some mistakes, but at least we fought through it," Thompson said.
DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 18 rebounds, and Tyreke Evans scored 16 points for the erratic Kings, who had won three of their last four and started to show progress under former Warriors coach Keith Smart. Instead, Sacramento is still stuck at the bottom of the division and four games back of Golden State.
"Mistakes that we make, growing pains, we got to go through them," Smart said. "Hopefully, these games will help us as we move forward."
The inconsistent effort highlighted two undermanned teams likely headed for the NBA draft lottery.
Sacramento clamped down defensively and held Golden State scoreless for almost 3 minutes late in the fourth quarter. The Kings scored 10 straight points during the stretch, going ahead 104-102 on Evans' short jumper with 3:44 to play.
After Richard Jefferson made a free throw, Lee tipped in a rebound. Then Thompson squeezed a pass between two defenders and Lee finished with a reverse layup to give Golden State a 107-104 lead. The teams traded baskets before Sacramento sliced the deficit to one on Isaiah Thomas' layup with 42.3 seconds left.
With the shot-clock dwindling down, Terrence Williams — in his first game with Sacramento — blocked Thompson's shot and raced down court on a 2-on-1 break. But he lost control going up for a layup, and after a short review, officials ruled Williams knocked the ball out.
It wouldn't be the last mishap.
With Lee inbounding the ball, the Warriors were whistled for a 5-second violation, giving Sacramento possession with 14.3 seconds remaining. A third straight turnover followed when Thomas dribbled the ball off his legs and out of bounds near the 3-point line.
Lee threaded a near full-court pass to Jefferson for an easy dunk, and Evans missed a potential tying 3-point at the buzzer in desperation to send Sacramento to one of its ugliest losses in a season filled with them.
"I've done that move so many times. I got the separation that I wanted, I knew what I was going to do with it. It just didn't get to my right hand," Thomas said of his late turnover. "I was going to shoot it. I just didn't handle it right."
In what was a struggle for both teams, neither could pull away.
Thompson paced Golden State's simmering start, hitting two 3-pointers during a 10-0 run to go ahead 14-4 in the first quarter. Without a strong inside presence defensively, the Warriors struggled to hold leads.
Sacramento answered with nine straight points later in the period that whittled the Warriors' cushion to one. Cousins also had a thunderous one-handed slam over rookie Jeremy Tyler, who started at centre in place of Andris Biedrins (strained right groin) for the third consecutive game.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry also missed his seventh straight game — and 20th this season — with a sprain in his surgically repaired right ankle. Replacement Nate Robinson strained his right hamstring and didn't play in the second half, but he should be back against Portland on Sunday night. And new centre Andrew Bogut, acquired in a trade with Milwaukee that sent leading scorer and fan favourite Monta Ellis to the Bucks, already had a fractured left ankle and is likely out for the season.
"We're going to make mistakes," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said about his limited lineup. "But the thing I like about it is, even after David Lee got the 5-second call, we were in the huddle saying, 'It's OK, it's OK. It's all right, it's all right. Let's get this stop.' That's what winning teams do."
Ellis' replacement has had no problem filling in the extra minutes.
Thompson finished off a 21-point first half with a 19-foot jumper from the corner and made two free throws after getting fouled on a hard-driving layup. The Warriors led 62-51 at the break.
Notes: Curry had another evaluation on his ankle Thursday in the Los Angeles area by foot specialist Dr. Richard Ferkel. Curry, who has had repeated ankle problems, will be revaluated next week. ... Warriors season-ticket holder Omar Ortega of Hayward won $10,000 by making a half-court shot between the third and fourth quarters.