SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It was the same story as usual for the 76ers.
They played hard, kept things competitive, but ultimately exited their opponent's arena with a loss. This time, it was a 107-106 setback to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Down one point with 8.2 seconds left, the Sixers called a 20-second timeout.
When the game resumed, they faked the ball to Robert Covington and gave the ball to Hollis Thompson. It was a play the Sixers had a lot of success with this season.
However, this time, Thompson never got a shot off. DeMarcus Cousins stole the ball in the closing second.
"We had a hard time getting a look," coach Brett Brown said
It was the 16th consecutive road loss for the Sixers (17-54). However, this was a welcomed loss for Sixers fans who have bought into the team's sacrificing wins to secure a top draft pick. By losing, they remain close to the New York Knicks (14-57) and Minnesota Timberwolves (16-54) in the battle for the league's worst record with 11 games remaining. The team that finishes with the worst record has the best chance to win the top pick during the draft lottery.
The Kings (25-45) extended their winning streak to three games.
Ray McCullam's tip in of Cousins' miss gave Sacramento a 107-105 lead with 48.7 seconds left. Robert Covington made one foul shot to close the gap to a point with 39.5 seconds left.
Cousins had game highs of 33 points and 17 rebounds.
Covington made 5 of 6 three-pointers to pace the Sixers with 21 points. He scored 12 consecutive points in the fourth quarter. Reserve power forward Thomas Robinson added 16 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Center Nerlens Noel had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The Sixers led by 70-63 at the half. It was their highest-scoring half in a game this season.
Noel didn't show any ill effects from taking a shot in the eye Sunday in a setback to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The rookie center had 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half. He and the Sixers did, however, have another tough time defending Cousins.
The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder missed seven of his first nine shots. But he had 21 points and 10 rebounds at the half to secure his 42d double-double of the season.
The Sixers were without shooting guard Jason Richardson. Not cleared to play on back-to-back nights, the 14th-year veteran was held out to rest. The 6-6, 225-pounder is scheduled to play Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
Richardson returned to the court Feb. 20 for the first time in more than two years after suffering a cartilage tear the size of a quarter on the right side of his left kneecap in January 2013.
In his absence Tuesday, the Sixers moved JaKarr Sampson from small forward to starting shooting guard. Robert Covington started at small forward. It was the 6-foot-9 Covington's first start since he scored a team-high 24 points against the Kings on March 13.
But on this night, Cousins was the game's dominant player. The 24-year-old has a knack for producing solid games against the Sixers.
Cousins has scored 33 or points in two of the last three meetings with the Sixers. His 39-point, 24-rebound effort on March 13 was still fresh on people's minds.
"Being as big as he is, he's able to put the ball on the floor and try to play more of a bully ball on you," Noel said. "And he does have moves."
The Kings wore their blue Rochester Royals throwback uniforms with red and white trim. The franchise, which originated in Rochester, N.Y., in 1923, was known as the Royals from 1945 to 1957. The team moved to Cincinnati after that season, and had a stop in Kansas City before moving to Sacramento in 1985. The Sixers wore their home white uniforms.