Kings snap Hornets' streak with 102-96 win


Kings snap Hornets' streak with 102-96 win


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Consideringthat Sacramento has the second worst record in the Western Conference,it was hard to imagine the Kings sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers andstreaking New Orleans Hornets in consecutive nights.
REWIND: Shocker at Staples -- Kings upset Lakers, 100-95
Yet, led by brash rookie DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings managed to win both games in impressive fashion.Cousins followed up a huge effortagainst the Lakers on Friday with another big game, finishing with 25points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to help the Kings snap theHornets' winning streak at 10 games with a 102-96 victory Saturday.Sacramento (12-33) never trailed inwinning consecutive games for the second time all season. The last timethe Kings won back-to-back games was Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the third andfourth games of the season."We've shown great strides in bothfocus and poise," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We had some hardknocks early in the season, helping us deal with the bumps in theroad."Cousins was again instrumental in abig win. He scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds in the 100-95 win overthe Lakers and played just as well in tormenting the Hornets inside andalso on the perimeter."(DeMarcus) is intelligent, helearns," Westphal said. "He's learning what works and what doesn't.He's changed some habits offensively."Cousins is playing confidently andalso isn't afraid to speak his mind. He had some harsh words for theHornets' Chris Paul after the All-Star guard committed a hard foul latein the game that sent Beno Udrih to the floor.Cousins quickly confronted Paul and told him to "clean it up.""I'm know I'm the rookie, but Ican't sit there and let him hurt my point guard," Cousins said. "It'snothing against Chris Paul, I was just having my teammate's back."Fouled-plagued Tyreke Evans had nineof his 18 points in the fourth quarter for the Kings, who have wonthree of four games. Samuel Dalembert had 16 points and Udrih added 14.David West scored 21 points for theHornets, who were looking to set a franchise record with 11 straightvictories. Paul had 19 points and seven assists, Marcus Thornton had 16points and Emeka Okafor 15."When you win this many games youhave a target on your back," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "Wedidn't play their record. Young teams like that pick it up about now(this time of the season). We've just got to turn the page, but notwithout learning some of these lessons."A goaltending violation gaveThornton a basket and West followed with a medium-range jumper at the1:43 mark, pulling the Hornets to 96-94. The Kings responded once againwith Dalembert tipping in a missed shot and Udrih making two freethrows for a 100-94 lead with 31 seconds remaining."We've lost a lot of chippy gamesthis year," Cousins said. "This was another big win for us, anothermomentum boast. Hopefully we can keep it going."Trailing by nine to start thefourth, the Hornets cut it to 89-87 on Okafor's two free throws at the5:45 mark. But Evans scored off a drive and passed off to Omri Casspifor a layup, helping Sacramento build the lead to 94-87."We were supposed to handle thisteam," West said. "We just came out with the wrong attitude. Wecouldn't guard them and we didn't stop them enough. We didn't stop themnearly enough to win the game."The third quarter didn't start outwell for the Kings. Evans picked up two fouls in the first 3 minutesand walked dejectedly to the Sacramento bench with five fouls.Yet the Kings stayed in front 76-67heading into the fourth with some unlikely players leading the way.Dalembert had seven points and seldom-used Luther Head, subbing forEvans, scored five.The Kings went to Cousins early andthe rookie center delivered. He had 19 points, six rebounds and fiveassists in the first half when the Kings led 56-46. Sacramento led theentire first half and built a 17-point lead, but the Hornets closed thesecond quarter with a 9-2 run."I just thought Cousins had his way with us," Williams said. "We put up no resistance. The defense wasn't there tonight at all."NOTES: Cousins scored 10 points andEvans had nine in the opening quarter when the Kings led 24-22. ...Paul hasn't missed a game this season after playing in just 45 lastseason. ... Kings starting forward Jason Thompson left the game with asprained right ankle in the first quarter and didn't return... TheHornets had beaten the Kings by a combined seven points in two earliermeetings, including a 75-71 win in Sacramento.

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.

Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.

“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.

Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.

It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.

“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.

When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.

Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).

When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.

The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.

“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”


Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.

Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.

“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”

The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).

That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.

“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.

Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.

He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.

Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.

“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.

“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”

Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.

“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”

Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.

There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.

For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.

“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.

“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”