When it is said that teams that live by the 3 die by the 3 — and it is said often — it usually refers to teams relying so much on shots from distance that eventually they miss.

The Sacramento Kings turned that around on the Rockets on Sunday night. And the Rockets invited them to do it.

The Rockets fired away as usual. Though they never came close to catching a wave to get a running start for Tuesday’s rematch with the Golden State Warriors, the Kings joined them to beat them, rolling through the fourth quarter to a 117-111 win, giving the Rockets a rough start to a three-game California road trip before the All-Star break.

The Kings hit five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, all after the Rockets had built a 10-point lead and all with DeMarcus Cousins on the bench with five fouls.

But the Kings got those open looks because the Rockets could not defend them off the drive or keep them off the glass, opening the way for Sacramento to beat them with jumpers.

“Two things we didn’t do,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We didn’t contain the ball, which we had to do because it got where they wanted off the dribble, off pick-and-roll, off Isaiah Thomas. And offensive rebounds. They did both.”

The Kings pulled safely away — pending their last-minute free-throw shooting — when John Salmons went up for another trey only to have James Harden smack him on the wrist with 67 seconds left.


Salmons, who had 23 points and six assists, made all three free throws for a 111-107 lead with the Rockets’ offense breaking down.

Rockets guard Jeremy Lin had fouled out with 2:40 left. Harden, who led the Rockets with 30 points, cut the Kings’ lead to one, but after the Kings’ Francisco Garcia missed from 27 feet, Patrick Beverley missed a corner 3.

Harden lost the ball on a drive. After Salmons’ free throws, the Rockets had so much trouble just getting a shot that Carlos Delfino had to put up an off-balance 3 just to beat the shot clock. He missed. Patrick Patterson missed a tip. Harden missed inside.

In the nine minutes in which the Rockets went from a 10-point lead to a six-point deficit, they made five of 18 shots.

The Kings were 1-of-6 inside the arc and 5-of-8 on 3s in that span to beat the Rockets at their own game.

They sealed the win at the line, where they went 26-of-27 and kept the Rockets from a last chance to steal the win.