Basketball: Kings clinch first winning season in 17 years, Pacers beat Bucks

Domantas Sabonis goes to the basket as Spencer Dinwiddie defends during the second half at Barclays Centre. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK – The Sacramento Kings ensured their first winning season in 17 years with a 101-96 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory in Brooklyn on Thursday, earning praise from Nets coach Jacque Vaughn.

The Kings now have a 42-27 record, are second in the Western Conference and are on course for their first post-season appearance since 2006.

Domantas Sabonis had 24 points and 21 rebounds on a night when Sacramento’s defence delivered.

They allowed the Nets zero fast-break points and no second-chance points. They frustrated a Brooklyn team who are now just a game and a half ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat (38-33) in the East.

Vaughn said his counterpart Mike Brown had done a remarkable job to turn around the franchise.

“I told him that he had my vote for Coach of the Year, he has done a heck of a job getting those dudes to the play-offs, 40 wins,” he said.

“To have that franchise where it is, he deserves a lot of credit.”

The Kings last had a winning season in 2005-06, when they finished 44-38. Last campaign, they ended 12th on 30-52.

Elsewhere, the Indiana Pacers boosted their chances of making the play-in for the post-season with a 139-123 upset win at Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee Bucks (50-20).

Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points while Aaron Nesmith had 22, and Indiana (32-38) had eight players make double figures.

The injury-depleted Pacers had to recover from a slow start when they trailed 16-5 but they tied the game up in the second quarter before going in 64-55 down at the break.

Indiana then outscored the Bucks 49-37 in the third and 35-22 in the fourth, and although Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 25 points, he was left frustrated.

“It was a special second half, our levels of aggression and attitude were much, much better,” said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.

Western Conference leaders Denver Nuggets snapped a four-game losing streak, beating the Detroit Pistons 119-100.

The win also ensured that Denver (47-23) clinched their play-off spot.

Nikolas Jokic was top scorer with 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Nuggets.

Coach Michael Malone was delighted his team had finally returned to winning ways.

Separately, ESPN reported that NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is in “serious talks” to sell his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets.

The six-time NBA champion and Chicago Bulls legend is contemplating selling his stake to a group led by Hornets minority owner Gabe Plotkin and Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall.

The talks are in the early stages, said ESPN, but if Jordan were to sell his majority stake, he would still remain a minority owner of the Hornets franchise. AFP, REUTERS

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