Strange as it may seem, the Sacramento Kings are winning with defense.
Bobby Jackson stripped the ball from Scottie Pippen and hit two free throws with 11 seconds left as the Kings beat the Trail Blazers 79-75 Monday night for their first win over Portland in nearly three years.
Thanks to a revolutionary attitude exemplified by new Kings Jackson and Doug Christie, the NBA's most pass-happy, run-and-gun team of the last two seasons has held all five of its opponents this season under 50 percent shooting.
''We beat Portland because we played defense,'' said Vlade Divac, whose layup with 22 seconds left put the Kings up for good. ''We didn't shoot the ball well, and we didn't rebound great, but we stopped them. If we can do that in future games, we'll beat anybody.''
Playing the NBA's final home opener after beginning the season on a four-game road trip, the Kings buckled down, banged bodies down low and put a hand in the Blazers' faces all night long. Jackson's sly theft from Pippen was the final act in an outstanding defensive performance.
The Blazers shot poorly, passed only sporadically and got just 20 points from their vaunted bench. Steve Smith was 2-of-9, Shawn Kemp 2-of-10, Dale Davis 3-of-12 and Damon Stoudamire 4-of-14 as the Kings watched Portland miss dozens of jumpers rather than drive inside.
Jazz 98, Timberwolves 92
SALT LAKE CITY -- John Starks scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth-quarter and Karl Malone finished with 22 points as the Utah Jazz beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-92 on Monday night.
Utah used a 29-15 run in the fourth quarter to seal their fourth straight win.
Malone finished with 15 rebounds and five assists to lead Utah. Starks added 16 points.
Terrell Brandon led Minnesota with 25 points. Kevin Garnett added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Magic 110, Sonics 99
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tracy McGrady returned from a one-game suspension and scored 31 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, on 11-of-21 shooting as Orlando won its second straight game.
Darrell Armstrong and John Amaechi each had 20 points, while Michael Doleac finished with 17 for the Magic.
Rashard Lewis scored 28 points, and Gary Payton had 23 points and 10 assists. Patrick Ewing was held to seven points on 3-for-9 shooting as the Sonics were outscored at the center position 37-9.
Mavericks 108, Nuggets 96
DENVER -- Michael Finley scored 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points as Dallas beat Denver for the fourth time in five meetings.
Finley was 4-of-6 from the field with two free throws in the fourth quarter and finished 9-of-17 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Howard Eisley scored 10 of his 14 points in the final period for Dallas.
Raef LaFrentz, who led the Nuggets with 23 points, scored only two points in the decisive fourth quarter. Robert Pack had 17 points.
Grizzlies 97, Hawks 87
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Othella Harrington scored 18 points as Vancouver earned its third victory in four games.
Vancouver's 3-1 record is the best start in the team's six-year history. The Grizzlies' previous best start was a 2-0 record in 1994-95, their initial season.
Lorenzen Wright and Alan Henderson led a depleted Atlanta lineup with 19 points each. The Hawks, one of two winless teams in the NBA, fell to 0-4.
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