The Charlotte Hornets pulled off arguably the best comeback of the season against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. On the flip side, the Kings might have suffered the worst loss of the season. With 1:13 remaining in the contest, it looked like the Kings had the win all but wrapped up as they increased their lead to 123-115 over the visiting Hornets. However, Charlotte had other ideas.
After taking a timeout, the Hornets switched gears and turned the game completely around. Following a couple of big plays by their defense, Terry Rozier hit a big 3-pointer, and followed it up later with a couple of free throws that cut the Kings' lead to 123-120 with 33 seconds left on the clock. After De'Aaron Fox put the Kings back up 125-121 with a floater, P.J. Washington responded with a shot from long range. Buddy Hield converted one of his free throws, giving Sacramento a 126-124 lead with 10 ticks left.
That's when Malik Monk decided to play hero.
On what would potentially be Charlotte's final chance to tie or win the game, Monk drove in from the top of the key, absorbed contact from Kings big man Richaun Holmes and still managed to flip the ball through the basket with one second left. The bucket tied the game, and then Monk proceeded to hit the resulting free throw to give the Hornets the final lead -- an improbable 127-126 victory.
Monk finished the game with 21 points for the Hornets as they outscored the Kings 12-3 over the final minute of the contest. He also had a lot of help in the comeback. P.J. Washington tallied a career-high 42 points in the win, while rookie LaMelo Ball added 24 points of his own, to go along with a career-high 12 assists. Charlotte's victory over the Kings was so improbable that the Hornets had just a 1.6 percent chance of winning with 55 seconds left on the game clock.
After the game, Hornets head coach James Borrego was understandably proud of his team.
"It goes back to that term of resiliency, never dropping the sword, never giving in and fighting until the final second,'' Borrego said, via ESPN. "They had to miss some free throws to help us out, but we found a way. Down men, we found a way to win. Just proud of our group.''
While Borrego was proud of his guys, Kings coach Luke Walton felt the opposite emotion after watching his team let a game that they had complete control over slip away. Walton called the loss "painful" for a Kings team that is trying to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff picture.
"Come to an end of a game, that's where we have to step up and put teams out, and we didn't do it,'' Walton said. "Give Charlotte credit. They hit 3s and made every free throw down the stretch. That's a painful loss for our guys. We didn't finish it out.''
The loss was obviously a tough one to swallow for Sacramento. The good news for the Kings, though, is that they won't have to wait too long for a rematch, as the two teams will square off again in Charlotte on March 15.