Coming off their first loss of the season, the San Antonio Spurs look to get back to winning against a team they've dominated in recent years.The Sacramento Kings have won both of their home games, but they'll have a tall task trying to make it three in a row Friday night against a Spurs team that has won eight straight at Sleep Train Arena.San Antonio (4-1) has had its way with the Kings (2-3) for the past six seasons, winning 19 of 21 meetings by an average of 8.9 points.It's averaged 106.6 points during its winning streak in Sacramento, and has put up 119.0 points per game while shooting an astounding 56.5 percent in three wins there over the past two seasons.After picking up back-to-back home wins for the first time since a three-game run March 16-20, though, the Kings are out to prove they're no longer a Western Conference doormat."It's a new year, a new team - we're not concerned about last year," Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. "We're trying to change things around in Sacramento."The Spurs aren't trying to do anything different to one of the league's most successful teams, yet their 4-0 start was a franchise first. They didn't come close to stretching their run to five, though, shooting a season-low 41.1 percent Wednesday in a 106-84 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center."They kicked our (rear end)," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We hung in there for a half, but after that I don't think we played with the same intensity that they did, and it showed."San Antonio shot just 41.1 percent after hitting 48.8 percent during its unbeaten beginning, while the Kings' ability to knock down some open looks has gotten them back on track. Sacramento shot 37.5 percent during its 0-3 start, but it's hit 47.2 percent in its two victories.The Kings shot 48.8 percent in Wednesday's 105-103 win over Detroit."When we started 0-3, it was a reminder for us to relax," said point guard Isaiah Thomas, who's scored 25 points in 42 minutes of Sacramento's two wins. "It's relax if you're playing, relax if you're not. It refers to everything we're doing as a team."After averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in Sacramento's first two games, Cousins has turned it on with three consecutive double-doubles. He finished with 21 points and 11 boards in the Kings' 105-103 victory over Detroit on Wednesday.Cousins averaged 20.0 points and 11.0 rebounds in the three meetings with San Antonio last season, while Thomas had a career-high 28 points and 10 assists in a 117-112 loss March 28.Marcus Thornton, now coming off the bench, shot 49.0 percent and averaged 18.3 points in three starts against the Spurs last season.San Antonio hasn't lost back-to-back road games in the regular season since Jan. 27 and 29, but it could have trouble Friday if Tony Parker continues to struggle. The four-time All-Star has scored a combined 10 points on 5 of 20 shooting in his last two games.Manu Ginobili, who scored nine points on 2 of 8 shooting in 19 minutes in Los Angeles, continues to work his way back from a back injury that kept him out of the first two games.Perhaps he'll fare better against the Kings. Ginobili has averaged 20.5 points and shot 61.7 percent in his last four games versus Sacramento.One Spur who's had little trouble connecting is Danny Green, who's shooting 56.8 percent overall and has hit 12 of 22 (54.5) from 3-point range. Green, though, might have a tough time finding good looks against a Sacramento team that's defending the arc better than anyone (24.2).Kings forward Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in this year's draft, was suspended for two games Thursday for elbowing Detroit's Jonas Jerebko in the neck.NEWS: Kings' Robinson suspended
NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.
The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.
Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut after a trade from the Lakers, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.
Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds after he was acquired from Sacramento during the break. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.
Houston led by as many as 35 points when Gordon's free throws made it 100-65 late in the third quarter.
After New Orleans acquired Cousins, nicknamed "Boogie," in a deal involving five players and two draft choices, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps hoped Cousins and Davis would thrive playing off one another while point guard Jrue Holiday initiated offensive sets. But Holiday had arguably his worst game this season, turning the ball over seven times and finishing with only six points and four assists.
The crowd was charged up for both Cousins' debut and Davis' resumption of a sensational season following his record 52-point performance on Sunday.
Both players received rousing receptions during introductions and the crowd roared when Cousins hit a jumper for games' first points.
Cousins and Davis each scored eight in the first quarter, but it was also apparent that the integration of new personnel had New Orleans a bit out of sync. The Pelicans turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, leading to 17 Rockets points.
The Rockets also hit nine 3s in the opening half, including three each by Gordon and Williams, and led 66-50 at halftime.
By the end of the third quarter, the crowd that had been so rowdy at tip-off was starting to file out with their team down 100-67.
Rockets: Houston has won seven of the past eight meetings. ... The Rockets hit at least 10 3s in a game for the 55th time in 59 games this season. ... The Rockets, now 41-18, have matched their win total for all of last season.
Pelicans: Before the game, New Orleans waived F Terrence Jones and signed G/F Hollis Thompson to a 10-day contract. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Jones, who joined New Orleans on a one-year contract this season, was released to help him find a team where he could play more. Thompson played a little more than four minutes and scored three points. ... The Pelicans are now 14-16 at home.
Rockets: Host Minnesota on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Visit Dallas on Saturday night.
SACRAMENTO -- It seems like yesterday that Michael Malone was leading a Sacramento Kings team featuring DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay into battle every night. Less than three years later, only Gay remains with the franchise and he’s out for the season with a torn left Achilles.
Thomas left in a lopsided trade that yielded Sacramento Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception during the summer of 2014. Malone was let go with an 11-13 record 24 games into the 2014-15 campaign after Cousins went down with a bout of viral meningitis. Cousins is now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans following a blockbuster trade on Sunday.
“I always go back and think - ‘what could have happened if myself, DeMarcus, Isaiah, a healthy Rudy, if we were all together?,’” Malone told a small group of reporters before shootaround on Thursday. “We’ll never know, but I like to think that a lot of positive things would have happened, because I felt like we had something good going here. And it wasn’t to be.”
Malone’s reputation as a defense-minded coach played into his firing. At the time, owner Vivek Ranadivé used musical metaphors to describe what he was looking for in his next head coach.
“We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos, but now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised,” Ranadivé said. “What we need is a jazz director.”
Malone is back in Sacramento Thursday night as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets and he’s looking for his first win against his former club in his fifth opportunity. He also heads a group that leads the Kings by a game and a half in the standings and boasts the NBA’s fourth highest scoring average at 110.6 points per game.
“I can’t remember all the things that were said when I was fired, because there was so much being said,” Malone stated. “But I know one of the things that was being said was ‘style of play.’ There were people that were not in my corner that used that as a way to get me fired. Now we’re one of the highest scoring teams in NBA.”
“I look at you people, you were wrong,” a smiling Malone added while looking directly into a news camera.
Known for his ability to connect to Cousins, Malone was as shocked as anyone to hear that the Kings traded the talented 26-year-old. The two have remained close, despite no longer working together.
“That was definitely a surprise over All-Star break,” Malone said. “Surprise for me, even a bigger surprise for him from what I understand.”
Malone has very little time to worry about his former player. He has to prepare his Nuggets team for a new-look Kings roster that has played a gritty, hard-nosed style all season long. With 26 games remaining, his team sits in the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and they face a team that is backed into a cormer.
“They have a chip on their shoulder,” Malone said. “You make a big trade like that and I’m sure the players in that locker room are going to say, ‘Everybody’s writing us off because we don’t have DeMarcus.’ They’re going to come out and try and prove everybody wrong. They beat Boston, a very good team, without DeMarcus, and I’m sure that’s the model they’re going to try to use moving forward.”
A straight shooter through and through, Malone spoke on a variety of topics before heading out to the floor to prep his team for the 7:30 start at Golden 1 Center.
“I just want to get a win, period,” Malone said. “The grudge is gone, this is part of the business. I knew the rules when I signed up, I really did.”
Malone understood the reality of taking over a fledgling franchise under new ownership and management when he took the Kings job. Sacramento gave him his first head coaching opportunity in the league, which he is grateful for, but his departure was anything but clean. The grudge might be gone, but those who covered Malone during his time with the Kings know full-well that playing this franchise will always be personal.