Kings ride 'Big Three' to win over Nuggets
Isaiah Thomas and the Kings have a chance to sweep the season series with the Rockets for the first time in ten years. (USATSI)
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Getting some big shots from an unlikely source, the Houston Rockets wasted little time in bouncing back after their longest winning streak in six years came to an end.
Extending their recent tear might not be as easy as it appears against the Sacramento Kings, who have given Houston all it can handle with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins healthy.
The visiting Rockets seek their 10th win in 11 games overall as they try to avoid losing the season series to the Kings for the first time in 10 years Tuesday night.
Following a 102-99 overtime loss at Golden State that ended Houston's eight-game run Thursday, Patrick Beverley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left before sinking two free throws to seal a 115-112 win at Phoenix on Sunday.
Beverley had two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Warriors but scored 12 of his career-high 20 in the fourth quarter against the Suns, helping the Rockets (38-18) rally from 10 down in the final 12 minutes.
"Patrick's not afraid at all," coach Kevin McHale said. "He just goes and plays."
Dwight Howard led the way with 25 points and nine rebounds while making 10 of 12 shots. James Harden had 23 points and seven assists despite hyperextending his right elbow in a season-best 39-point effort in Oakland.
Houston had averaged 114.3 points and 51.3 percent shooting in a seven-game stretch before posting a 2014-low 36.6 field-goal percentage against the Warriors.
The Rockets got back on track by shooting 52.6 percent overall and outscoring Phoenix 64-42 in the paint Sunday. They held a 66-32 advantage in that category en route to a 119-98 home win over Sacramento on Jan. 22.
Howard had 26 points and 13 boards in that meeting, while Omri Casspi added 20 and 12 and Chandler Parsons 19 and 10.
The Kings, however, did not have two of their top players after Gay injured his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter and Cousins sprained his left ankle in the second.
Both are expected to play as Sacramento (20-36) looks to take the season series from the Rockets for the first time since a four-game sweep in 2003-04.
Gay led the way with 26 points in a 106-91 victory over visiting Houston on Dec. 15 and finished with a team-high 25 as the Kings overcame Harden's 38 in a 110-106 road win Dec. 31.
Cousins had a big effort Sunday with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists as Sacramento won for the fourth time in five games, 109-95 at Denver. Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points and shot 12 of 16, while Gay had 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Sacramento, which has averaged 107.0 points and 49.7 percent shooting in its last two, outscored the Nuggets 39-18 in the third quarter en route to its first win in Denver in 10 trips.
"We were getting stops and we got out and ran," said Thomas, who has averaged 26.7 points and 8.3 assists in his last three games. "That's when we're at our best, when we're in transition. We were in attack mode."
They didn't do that enough in the last meeting, when Houston held a 29-5 advantage in fast-break points.
The Kings have the second-worst record in the Western Conference but are seeking their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 7-12.