Cousins helps Kings snap Hornets’ winning streak
SACRAMENTO – Considering that Sacramento has the second worst record in the Western Conference, it was hard to imagine the Kings sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers and streaking New Orleans Hornets in consecutive nights.
Yet, led by brash rookie DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings managed to win both games in impressive fashion.
Cousins followed up a huge effort against the Lakers on Friday with another big game, finishing with 25 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to help the Kings snap the Hornets’ winning streak at 10 games with a 102-96 victory Saturday.
Sacramento (12-33) never trailed in winning consecutive games for the second time all season. The last time the Kings won back-to-back games was Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the third and fourth games of the season.
“We’ve shown great strides in both focus and poise,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “We had some hard knocks early in the season, helping us deal with the bumps in the road.”
Cousins was again instrumental in a big win. He scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds in the 100-95 win over the Lakers and played just as well in tormenting the Hornets inside and also on the perimeter.
“(DeMarcus) is intelligent, he learns,” Westphal said. “He’s learning what works and what doesn’t. He’s changed some habits offensively.”
Cousins is playing confidently and also isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He had some harsh words for the Hornets’ Chris Paul after the All-Star guard committed a hard foul late in 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 I can’t sit there and let him hurt my point guard,” Cousins said. “It’s nothing against Chris Paul, I was just having my teammate’s back.”
Fouled-plagued Tyreke Evans had nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter for the Kings, who have won three of four games. Samuel Dalembert had 16 points and Udrih added 14.
David West scored 21 points for the Hornets, who were looking to set a franchise record with 11 straight victories. Paul had 19 points and seven assists, Marcus Thornton had 16 points and Emeka Okafor 15.
“When you win this many games you have a target on your back,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We didn’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 not without learning some of these lessons.”
A goaltending violation gave Thornton a basket and West followed with a medium-range jumper at the 1:43 mark, pulling the Hornets to 96-94. The Kings responded once again with Dalembert tipping in a missed shot and Udrih making two free throws for a 100-94 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
“We’ve lost a lot of chippy games this year,” Cousins said. “This was another big win for us, another momentum boast. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Trailing by nine to start the fourth, the Hornets cut it to 89-87 on Okafor’s two free throws at the 5:45 mark. But Evans scored off a drive and passed off to Omri Casspi for a layup, helping Sacramento build the lead to 94-87.
“We were supposed to handle this team,” West said. “We just came out with the wrong attitude. We couldn’t guard them and we didn’t stop them enough. We didn’t stop them nearly enough to win the game.”
The third quarter didn’t start out well for the Kings. Evans picked up two fouls in the first 3 minutes and walked dejectedly to the Sacramento bench with five fouls.
Yet the Kings stayed in front 76-67 heading into the fourth with some unlikely players leading the way. Dalembert had seven points and seldom-used Luther Head, subbing for Evans, scored five.
The Kings went to Cousins early and the rookie center delivered. He had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in the first half when the Kings led 56-46. Sacramento led the entire first half and built a 17-point lead, but the Hornets closed the second 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 and Evans 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 last season. … Kings starting forward Jason Thompson left the game with a sprained right ankle in the first quarter and didn’t return… The Hornets had beaten the Kings by a combined seven points in two earlier meetings, including a 75-71 win in Sacramento.