With a league-high four triple-doubles, Rajon Rondo has been filling up the box score with regularity this season.
He added a new statistic to his ledger: his first dunk of the season.
Rondo had 16 points, 12 assists and a jaw-dropping dunk in the fourth quarter that led the Sacramento Kings to a 99-97 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
The former University of Kentucky star joked in a national television interview after the game that it was his first dunk in three years, even though he said later he had a few with Dallas last season. But it’s been a long time since he had one as athletic as the one against the Knicks that sent his own teammates rolling on the floor in excitement.
“I’ve been lifting,” he said. “I’ve been working on my body a lot. I’m not old. I just don’t dunk. I’m only 6 feet.”
Rondo added nine rebounds to finish just shy of another triple-double. Fellow former Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have just their second winning streak of the season. Sacramento also won three in a row in November.
Carmelo Anthony had 23 points and 14 rebounds but missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer for the Knicks, who have lost four straight and eight of the past 10 games.
“You take the best shot available if the ball is in our best player’s hands,” Coach Derek Fisher said. “The ball got to a spot on the floor where he got a shot up. We'll take that every time.”
New York trailed by 19 before making it close in the fourth quarter. Rookie Kristaps Porzingis’ three-point play cut Sacramento’s lead to three points late in the period.
The Kings then cleared it out for Rondo, who burst past Jose Calderon and went flying in for the one-hand slam with Anthony only able to watch.
“It surprised me,” Coach George Karl said. “There’s no question that was a golden moment for him. That was kind of an announcement that he’s healthy and back.”
But the Knicks did not go away, cutting the lead back to two on Anthony’s drive with 8.6 seconds to play. Darren Collison then lost the ball on the inbound pass with 4.6 seconds to play, but Anthony missed from 28 feet with the shot that would have won it.
Rondo helped Sacramento build a 19-point lead midway through the third quarter with a few highlight-reel plays. He faked an around-the-back pass before driving past Porzingis for a layup and then fed Cousins for a three-point play the next trip down to put Sacramento up 70-51 on his 10th assist of the night.
Cousins was powerful inside all night with an emphatic one-handed dunk over Robin Lopez in the first half and then pushing aside Porzingis for another in the fourth quarter.
“He was physical. Everything I expected,” Porzingis said. “It’s just really hard to stop a player like that and I was trying to do whatever I could to stop him a little bit.”
Knicks: New York had a season-high 54 rebounds. … Anthony is shooting 23 for 67 over his past four games. … Fisher got called for a technical in the third quarter.
Kings: Rondo has at least 10 assists in four straight games. … Former Sacramento star Chris Webber got a loud ovation from the fans after a video tribute following the first quarter. Webber was analyzing the game for TNT.
While Karl was happy with the win, the two late turnovers that almost cost his team the game still ate at him after it was over.
“Sometimes we don’t understand what the value of solid basketball and smart basketball is versus just trying to make athletic, fast plays,” he said.
The Kings have four days off before their next game, giving Cousins time to rest his sore feet. Cousins has also missed time this season with a bad back and Achilles’ and is hoping the time off will get him back close to 100 percent.
“These next couple of days will be great for me,” he said.