Cousins and Thomas lead Kings past Toronto 98-91

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Cousins and Thomas lead Kings past Toronto 98-91

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TORONTO -- DeMarcus Cousins wants to put "the silly stuff" behind him and just play basketball. So far, he seems to be doing exactly that.Cousins had 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points and the Sacramento Kings snapped a seven-game losing streak in Toronto by beating the Raptors 98-91 Wednesday night.An escalating feud with former coach Paul Westphal led Cousins to demand a trade earlier this month, resulting in him being told to stay away from the team for a game. The spat was resolved when Westphal was fired and replaced by Keith Smart, who offered Cousins his support, and a blank slate."He's a new player, man," Evans said. "I'm happy for him. He's done a great job just going out there and playing, helping us, not arguing with anybody on the team, just staying focused."He plays like that, he's an All-Star for sure," Evans added. "The way he's playing right now is unbelievable. We need that out of him every night."Cousins acknowledged that things have been more fun since Smart took over."We're just out there playing ball, playing together and having fun," he said. "We're having fun while we're working hard. That's the biggest thing."Cousins, whose previous career high in rebounds was 18, set against Utah on March 5, 2011, said he wasn't aware how many he had until teammates on the bench started letting him know."In the moment you don't even realize it," Cousins said. "Towards the end of the game they were like Get one more, you'll have 20.' I'm just out there grabbing boards. That's my job, to get everything that comes off the glass."Smart played Cousins for just over 39 minutes to build his conditioning, and his stats: The double-double was his fourth straight."He had it in him to rebound tonight," Smart said. "Because he had that, it put him in an active mode and I'm happy with that."Rookie guard Isaiah Thomas scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and Jimmer Fredette had 10 for the Kings, who had not won in Toronto since Feb. 22, 2004.Sacramento had lost two straight and four of five coming in, but held on to record its first road victory in five tries this season."It's definitely exciting to get that first (road) win, get that monkey off our backs," Fredette said.Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score a season-high 24 points while DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon each had 13 for the Raptors, who have lost four of five.With the score 63-all heading into the fourth, Toronto scored the first four points to lead 67-63. Thomas answered with a 3-pointer and, after a hook shoot by Linas Kleiza, Evans hit another 3, giving the Kings a lead they would not relinquish.Amir Johnson's alley-oop dunk cut it to 82-77 with 2:34 left, but Cousins answered with a pair of free throws and then a dunk of his own as the Kings pushed their lead to nine points, 86-77, with 1:12 left.DeRozan had a three-point play, but Evans kept the Raptors at bay by making four consecutive free throws on the next two possessions. The 2010 Rookie of the Year finished a perfect 14 of 14 from the line.Toronto lost leading scorer Andrea Bargnani to a strained left calf with 3:13 left in the third quarter. Bargnani, who did not return, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes."He's our best player for sure," Calderon said. "After they let us know he wasn't coming out again, it was tough."Kleiza, out since undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee last Feb. 1, made his return to the lineup, coming on late in the first quarter. Kleiza scored 10 points in 14 minutes."I feel good, it's fun to be back," Kleiza said. "The game didn't end the way anybody wanted but for me personally, after a year off, it feels good to be back."Barbosa scored 12 points in the second, but Thomas had eight for the Kings, who led 41-40 at the half.NOTES: Fredette made his second straight start in place of Marcus Thornton (left thigh contusion). ... Toronto played its third game in as many nights, their only such stretch of the season. ... Raptors F Amir Johnson hit a rare 3-pointer in the third quarter, just the third of his career. ... Sacramento's 31 made free throws were a season high. ... Toronto has turned the ball over 18 or more times in three of the past four games.

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

Kings fall flat after emotional win last time out

SACRAMENTO -- Managing expectations. The Sacramento Kings are neither the team that blasted the Denver Nuggets by a final of 116-100 on Thursday night, nor the group that was flattened 99-85 on Saturday afternoon by the Charlotte Hornets. They are likely somewhere in between.

As Dave Joerger searched for combinations that work together, the Kings struggled with massive bouts of inconsistency Saturday. They are a team of veteran role players and young talent, none of which have ever been a focal point of an NBA offense in their careers.

It’s a work in progress for all involved. Sacramento has 23 games remaining on the schedule and it will take plenty of those games to once again balance out the lineups.

“It’s tough right now, trying to acclimate everyone in and trying to move forward,” point guard Darren Collison said.

Willie Cauley-Stein had a breakout 29-point, 10-rebound game against Denver just two days ago, but things change when a team has time to gameplan. The second-year big scored just two points and grabbed two rebounds in 28 minutes of action against Charlotte as they clogged the middle and took away the pick-and-roll.

“I think teams are definitely going to start doing that now, playing the pick-and-roll where we’re not getting layups and dunks,” Cauley-Stein said. “They’re going to challenge us from the 3-point line. But me personally, I’ve just got to find other ways to make an impact.”

On top of the lack of scoring and rebounding, both Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos struggled to stay with mobile big man Frank Kaminsky on the perimeter. The 23-year-old center doubled his season average, finishing the night with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Kaminsky knocked in 5-of-9 from long range as the Kings’ big chose to take away All-Star Kemba Walker and sagged off the University of Wisconsin product. The rotations were slow, which is to be expected from a team that is just starting to come together.

“Tonight was a situation where you had a team that is a veteran team, a very physical team,” Joerger said in his postgame comments. “They pushed us around the court most of the night with their size and their experience at all positions.”

There were still some positives to take away from the lopsided loss. Skal Labissiere is finding a way to produce since making his way into the rotation. The 20-year-old rookie played 23 minutes off Joerger’s bench, scoring eight points on 4-of-10 shooting while grabbing 13 rebounds.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of potential,” Anthony Tolliver said. “For him, I just tell him every day, ‘just go out there and play hard, man, everything else will take care of itself.’ As he starts to get more comfortable, that’s when he’s going to start to make a big impact.”

Taken with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere has played very sparingly over the first two-thirds of the season, but with very little depth at the power position, he has received an opportunity and taken advantage of it. His length and athleticism were on full display against the Hornets.

Rookie Buddy Hield added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but 13 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was long out of hand. He struggled to find a rhythm early, like most of the Kings perimeter players.  

Ben McLemore chipped in 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Like Hield all but two of those points came after the intermission and after the Kings had already fallen behind by double-digits.

Tyreke Evans started in his second game back with the Kings, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. The veteran wing played well defensively, but he’s still searching for his place with this team.

Sacramento gets a shot to redeem themselves on Monday when the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves drop by Golden 1 Center. With the loss they fell a game and half behind the Nuggets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

Instant Replay: Flat Kings routed by Kaminsky, Hornets

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SACRAMENTO -- It’s going to be a process. After a big win on Thursday night over the Denver Nuggets, the Sacramento Kings looked every bit the part of a team that had just completely revamped its roster on the fly. The result was a disappointing 99-85 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento left big man Frank Kaminsky open all night and he torched them from the perimeter. The second-year center scored 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point land while grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out three assists.

Nic Batum couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field on the night. He stall managed to impact the game in a positive way for Charlotte, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.

Marvin Williams chipped in 16 points and six rebounds. All-Star Kemba Walker scored just 12 points and dished out six assists and Marco Belinelli added 13 points and six rebounds in the win.

Rookie Skal Labissiere put up solid numbers for the second straight game. After bouncing back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns all season long, the athletic big dropped in eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Ben McLemore rallied late to score 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from deep.

Buddy Hield went for 15, although most of his points came when the game was out of hand. Darren Collison added 10 points and five assists

Anthony Tolliver was one of the few players to find their range as the Kings fell behind early. The veteran knocked down 3-for-6 from long range on his way to 11 points.

Tyreke Evans turned back the clock and showed flashes of the player that averaged 20-5-5 as a rookie. The 27-year-old wing dropped in 11 points, five rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes starting at the small forward spot for Sacramento.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Kaminsky lit the Kings up. More of a stretch four than a true center, the second-year big looked very comfortable all night long.

TURNING POINT:
Charlotte finished the first half strong to take an 11 point lead into the break. Coming out of the intermission, the Hornets jumped all over the Kings, using a 12-0 run to start the third and push their lead to 23.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Afflalo continues to be listed as day-to-day with hamstring stiffness. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings are back in action Monday evening when Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves roll through Sacramento.