Kings look to carry momentum into Nets game

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Kings look to carry momentum into Nets game

DeMarcus Cousins is a far different player now from what the New Jersey Nets saw of him as a rookie.The second-year forward is putting together his best stretch of basketball and will try for a career-best sixth straight double-double Saturday night when the Sacramento Kings host the Nets.Cousins was bypassed by New Jersey (18-35) in the 2010 draft, falling to Sacramento (18-33) at No. 5. The Nets used the third overall pick on Derrick Favors, who is no longer on their team and missed all 13 shots for Utah on Friday.

That contest featured another dominant performance by Cousins, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double as the Kings ended a four-game slide with a 104-103 win over the Jazz. Cousins had a tying three-point play with 2:20 left and made the eventual game-winning free throw with 3.8 seconds to go."It feels good, especially playing through the type of adversity we played through (Friday)," Cousins said. "It was definitely a big win for us."Cousins is averaging 28.0 points and 15.0 rebounds over his last five games. His two games against New Jersey last season came within the first 11 of his career. The inexperience showed, as Cousins averaged 10.0 points on 31.3 percent shooting, though he did post 7.0 rebounds per game.His toughness has been his trademark, with more proof of it Friday. Cousins suffered a gash in a physical third quarter and was whistled for a technical foul as he left the court for stitches before coming back."I prefer a guy with fire," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We have guys that you've got to pump up and put air in them to make them play hard and play with passion. (Cousins) is going to grow out of that and know how to manage. He'll settle down and his skills will continue to develop."Friday's Sacramento victory came without guard Tyreke Evans, out because of back spasms. Evans' status is uncertain for Saturday. He's averaging 20.5 points in two career home wins over the Nets.New Jersey has dropped 11 of its last 12 visits to Sacramento, but has been better on the road than at home all season. The Nets rallied from 19 points down in the second half Friday to win 102-100 at Golden State.Deron Williams had 20 assists - matching the NBA season high by Boston's Rajon Rondo against New York on March 4. Gerald Wallace finished with 24 points, 18 rebounds and six steals, and scored 10 points over the final 6 minutes as the Warriors crumbled down the stretch."The future looks good, if we had everybody healthy," Wallace said. "We have an elite point guard, we have one of the up-and-coming centers ... so our future looks great."Wallace, who has a player option with New Jersey in 2012-13, was drafted in the first round by Sacramento in 2001 and spent his first three seasons with the Kings. He's averaging 19.9 points on 53.1 percent shooting against the Kings - career highs against any opponent.

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

Last Sunday night, DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans.

The move stunned the basketball world and the All-Star big man himself.

After Cousins' debut in a Pelicans uniform on Thursday night, he opened up to Marc Spears of The Undefeated.

"Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response," Cousins said when asked if he wants to talk to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive or GM Vlade Divac. "For what?

"And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with Mike Malone’s. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?"

Cousins also revealed a story about the Kings telling him he would not be traded.

"A week before the trade," Cousins started. "The sick part about it is that Vlade came in my house with my agent. We sat in my theater and just talked. That was maybe three weeks ago. We sat there and (he) told me what moves he wanted to make. All of that. I just didn’t understand.

"I got a text from the owner right before I went to All-Star. He was asking me about a player, how I felt about him and making a move. The owner! When it happened, I was just in shock. I didn’t understand."

Cousins registered 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks against the Rockets, but the Pelicans lost by 30.

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings fell behind by eight at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter and the tension inside of Golden 1 Center was palpable. A spattering of boos could be heard from a fanbase that had just watched their franchise cornerstone sent packing over the weekend. The worst fears seemed to be playing out.

And then Willie Cauley-Stein happened.

Head coach Dave Joerger summoned the second-year big man into the game and he responded with a dunk off a Ben McLemore pass. He followed that up with a put back slam and then a driving lay-up and then a 15-foot jumper. By the end of the first quarter, Cauley-Stein had poured in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting and Sacramento held a 29-26 lead.

“He didn’t feel us,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “We didn’t have great execution with our pick-and-roll defense. He got behind us. We weren’t covering the rim. It was easy for him.”

The lanky 7-footer has been waiting for his opportunity and with DeMarcus Cousins now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he is getting his shot.

Cauley-Stein continued his strong play in the second quarter as the Kings pushed their lead as high as 20. In 15 minutes of action before the break, Cauley-Stein posted 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He finished the night with a career-high 29 points and chipped in 10 rebounds in the win, but he wasn’t the only Kings player to post big numbers.

Sacramento used a team effort to pull off a 116-100 shocking victory. Six players scored in double-figures, including rookie Buddy Hield and veteran Tyreke Evans who joined the Kings in the Cousins trade over the weekend.

“Everybody’s unselfish,” Hield said. “When you play unselfish, I feel like everything is possible. Guys aren’t worried about who’s getting the most shots up. It doesn’t matter in this group.”

The rookie out of Oklahoma turned heads in his first appearance in a Kings uniform, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He knocked down a 3-pointer and showed a pretty tear drop in the lane.  

“Buddy is real confident, especially for a rookie,” point guard Darren Collison said. “He can shoot the ball really well. He can create a little bit off the pick-and-roll and he gets after it on defense too.”

Evans dropped in 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists off Dave Joerger’s bench. This is the second go-around in Sacramento for the former Rookie of the Year and there is a clear need for his ball-handling skills on the current version of the Kings.

In addition to Cauley-Stein, Hield and Evans, seldom used rookie Skal Labissiere put in a solid effort in his 14 minutes of action. The Haitian-born big man will likely play plenty of minutes down the stretch as the Kings adjust to their new, guard heavy roster.

Labissiere brought an energy and excitement to the game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He was active, which the veterans in Sacramento have seen in practice sessions, but Labissiere hasn’t been given the chance in real game action until Thursday night.

“Skal has been working since he got here,” Collison said. “I’ve seen that kid work after the games, in the gym by himself, before practice, after practice, before games, after the games. So it’s good to see that work finally paying off for him.”

Collison added 15 points and 10 assists in 32 minutes. Ty Lawson chipped in eight points and six assists starting alongside Collison and Ben McLemore knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 10 points.

It was a team effort for a group that has had very little time to gel together. The Kings’ second unit scored an incredible 72 points on the night, outscoring the Nuggets reserves by 28.

With the win, Sacramento moved to within a half game of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They head back to Golden 1 Center on Saturday afternoon for a 2pm start against the Charlotte Hornets who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including an overtime stunner on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.