SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Reggie Theus remembers some of Sacramento's lean years when victories were tough to come by. He played here then.
It took until the waning moments for his Kings to finally pull off the first win of his tenure as an NBA coach.
"It's tremendous," Theus said. "I have to admit I kept the ball and it's important to me. It's important to us as a team more than anything. We needed it in the worst way."
Garcia's timely 3-pointer saved Sacramento from what would have been quite the double whammy in its home opener: The Kings saw their sellout streak end at 354 games after the game drew 14,908 fans -- 2,409 below capacity at one of the NBA's most imposing road venues. But they avoided their first 0-4 start since 1997-98.
Seattle rookie Kevin Durant shot an airball with about 7 seconds left, but still finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Sonics, who are 0-4 for the first time in 30 years. Seattle led by 20 points in the first half.
"We all hate losing, and this was a bad one to lose," Durant said. "We were up all game."
Kevin Martin had 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Sacramento, which will have another tough test on its home floor Friday with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Theus, dressed to the nines with a navy blue pinstripe suit for big the occasion, had his high school coach, Mike Spalding, in the stands to cheer him on after Spalding made the trip from Southern California.
Garcia, who played for Theus when the coach was an assistant at Louisville, also stripped the ball from Durant late. Garcia's 3 was only his second basket of the night - and he was happy to help Theus to his first NBA coaching win.
"It means a lot, especially at home," Garcia said. "He works so hard."
Wally Szczerbiak scored 32 points for the Sonics and Nick Collison added 12 points and seven rebounds. Szczerbiak scored 18 points in the second quarter as Seattle built a 61-48 halftime lead before shooting 7-for-20 in the third quarter.
John Salmons added 23 points and did a solid job defending Durant for a Kings' lineup missing point guard Mike Bibby, forward Ron Artest and rookie center Spencer Hawes. Salmons' driving layin with 1:02 to play pulled the Kings within 98-97.
"They're twice as athletic as we are," Theus said of Seattle.
Bibby is expected to be sidelined for at least the first six weeks of the season with a torn ligament in his left thumb, while Hawes is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Artest is suspended for the first seven games.
Sacramento opened the third period with a 7-0 spurt to get back in the game. The Kings tied it on Martin's layin with 3:02 left, then went ahead on Quincy Douby's basket the next time down before a three-point play by Szczerbiak.
Durant had six of the Sonics' 24 turnovers.
"I sensed at halftime they would make some runs," first-year Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We didn't take care of the ball. That hurt us more than anything."
Theus wasn't worried about whether the game sold out.
"Every team goes through periods of time when things are not great," said Theus, who took over after Eric Musselman was fired following only one season as coach. "What you do in the interim determines how long that lasts. ... We have a lot of die-hard fans."
Robert Swift earned his first start for the Sonics, playing for the second time this season after recovering from ACL surgery on his right knee that caused him to miss all of last season. Carlesimo was considering playing Swift in consecutive games if all went well.
- Hawes, the Kings' top draft pick selected 10th overall out of Washington, was scheduled to begin practicing Wednesday. "He's so excited," Theus said. "He was bouncing around. He was on a pogo stick today."
- Durant and Hawes are good friends and got together Monday night in Sacramento.
- New Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker attended the game and sat courtside with wife, Melissa, and 8-year-old son, Darren. Baker, who recently built a home in the area, received a warm reception when introduced and shook hands with referee Ron Olesiak during a second-quarter timeout. Darren got to dribble the game ball during that break and later had a jersey signed by Bibby.