Cousins rallies Kings to 94-89 win over Suns
SACRAMENTO – DeMarcus Cousins has experienced a rocky road in his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings, typified by emotional outbursts and a tendency to commit silly fouls that send him to the bench.
Cousins avoided those pitfalls against Phoenix on Sunday night, scoring 13 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Kings from 14 points down in a 94-89 victory over the Suns.
Selected fifth overall out of Kentucky in last year’s draft, Cousins shot 11 for 17 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line, and had eight rebounds and a season-high six assists. He was also tough on defense against the Suns, clogging the middle, helping out on double teams, and blocking one shot.
Cousins remained a huge factor in the fourth despite picking up his fifth foul with 7:31 remaining.
“I always want the ball in my hands and be able to make decisions in crunch time,” said Cousins, who has been in and out of the starting lineup this season due to his bouts of immaturity and inconsistent play. “I want to help my team make plays.”
Francisco Garcia had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Omri Casspi added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who closed with a 19-2 run. Carl Landry had 11 points and 12 rebounds as the Kings outrebounded the Suns 60-32.
“Two weeks ago we would probably have 10 turnovers down the stretch and they would have shot 90 percent,” Cousins said.
Sacramento won for the second time in three games and improved the NBA’s worst record to 7-25.
Cousins and the Kings were making all the right moves throughout much of the fourth quarter when the Suns shot 7 of 21 and had just one lone basket in the final 5:51 of the game. A dunk by Grant Hill had given Phoenix seemingly a comfortable 87-75 lead.
“It was crazy to be able to that (19-2 run),” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “Our guys just kept playing hard. We were shooting 30 percent for most of the first half, something had to give.”
Steve Nash had 20 points and 12 assists for the Suns, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Vince Carter had 17 points and Marcin Gortat added 16. The Suns have dropped five of six games and nine of their last 12.
“They got some offensive rebounds and some put backs, and some easy ones that really hurt us,” Nash said. “Tonight we just missed some shots at the end and some wide open 3s. Our offense had some good looks, we just didn’t make them.”
After the Kings made a stop at the defensive end, Casspi quickly made a 3-pointer to give the Sacramento its first lead since the first quarter, a 92-89 advantage with 25.6 seconds left. Cousins was fouled after Mickael Petrus missed a desperate 3-point attempt and made both free throws for the final margin.
“Only a 3 could hurt us, so when that happens you collapse on the shooter,” said Casspi, who was in Petrus’ face on the badly missed 3-pointer. “Nash drove the lane, and I took a step in, but I was there to contest the shot.”
Cousins made an off-balance, underhand shot in the lane and added the free throw for a three-point play, tying the game at 89 with 1:48 remaining.
“Obviously he (Cousins) played well down the stretch,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “He made that three-point play to tie the game and he hit free throws to put them ahead.”
Trailing 87-75, the Kings scored nine consecutive points. Casspi’s 3-pointer and a jumper by Garcia at the 3:36 mark pulled the Kings to 87-84. Channing Frye opened the fourth quarter with a basket and Jared Dudley made back-to-back shots to give Phoenix a 79-67 lead.
Nash helped the Suns maintain their cushion over the Kings with a strong third quarter. He made a reverse left-handed layup and scored 10 points and had three assists as Phoenix took a 73-65 lead into the fourth.
Nash had played just 19 minutes in a win over Detroit on Friday night. Against the Kings he played 18 minutes in the opening half and had 10 points and eight assists.
NOTES: Hill played in his 900th career game. … Prior to the game, the Suns assigned rookie free agent center Garret Siler to the NBA Development League’s Iowa Energy. He averaged 1.3 points in six games. … The Kings missed 20 of 26 shots in the first quarter and trailed 27-17. … The Kings’ backcourt of Beno Udrih and Evans were a combined 0 of 9 in the first half and had two points. Udrih left the game for good early in the third quarter with a bruised left knee and was held scoreless.