Cousins scores 27as Kings stun Lakers
LOS ANGELES – The Sacramento Kings seemed downright stunned by what they had just done, throwing towels and hollering with unfamiliar joy in Staples Center’s sparse visitors’ locker room. DeMarcus Cousins led the festivities, bubbling with jokes and busting on everything from Carl Landry’s shoes to Omri Casspi’s deodorant.
“I feel like I won a championship now,” the big man said with a joking smirk.
Cousins realizes Sacramento’s surprising 100-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night wasn’t for a title. It’s certainly the high point of this young team’s miserable season – and for one improbable evening, the Kings were better than the champions.
Cousins had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Casspi added 20 points as the club with the NBA’s third-worst record (11-33) beat the two-time defending champs in their own building, snapping an eight-game losing streak to Sacramento’s former archrivals in the process.
“Obviously they’re the best team in the league, they’re the champions, and it feels good,” Casspi said. “It’s a great way to get our first win down here together, and it’s a great way to start a tough stretch of games. We feel really good.”
Samuel Dalembert scored 18 points as the Kings (11-33) jumped to a 20-point lead in the third quarter against the Lakers’ uninterested defense. The Kings then survived the Lakers’ late rally for their first win over Los Angeles since December 2008.
Kobe Bryant passed Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth place on the NBA’s career scoring list while scoring 21 of his 38 points in the first quarter, but the Lakers sure appeared to get caught looking ahead to Sunday’s NBA finals rematch with Boston.
“I don’t think so,” Bryant said in his clipped postgame comments. “Maybe a little bit, but I doubt it.”
Even though captain Derek Fisher put a two-day ban on all talk and thought about the Celtics during Thursday’s practice, the Lakers resembled the disorganized, disinterested bunch that overlooked Milwaukee in an embarrassing home loss four days before the Miami Heat’s visit on Christmas – another blowout defeat.
Shannon Brown scored 17 points, but Pau Gasol struggled with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, and Lamar Odom had just four points while missing all seven of his field goal attempts. Los Angeles has won 10 of 13, but just three of its last six heading into Sunday.
“We didn’t execute defensively very well,” Bryant said. “We blew so many coverages and gave so many open looks. We were a little out of sync and slow in our rotations, and it cost us. We just weren’t sharp defensively at all. We’ve still got work to do. We still have to continue to work at it and get more consistent.”
Cousins scored 22 points in the first half before finishing one point shy of his career high for the Kings, who pulled the upset after losing eight of their previous 10.
The Kings earned their third impressive road win in the past three weeks. Sacramento also won at New York and Portland before posting its first road victory over the Lakers since March 2008.
Dalembert and Casspi led a crisp 18-4 run after halftime, and Sacramento eventually went ahead 81-61 midway through the third quarter. Dalembert took over where Cousins left off exploiting Los Angeles’ 7-footers from the perimeter, hitting his first five shots after halftime.
“The start of the third quarter was certainly the key to the game,” Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. “Everything went great for us. We were able to build up that big lead, and they weren’t able to chip it away. We did struggle a lot at the end, but we did hold on. That’s big progress from some of the things we’ve had happen to us earlier in the year.”
The Lakers trimmed the lead to 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, and consecutive dunks by Bryant and Gasol cut Sacramento’s edge to 93-89 with 3:19 to play. But the Lakers got just one point out of their next three possessions, and Casspi tipped home Tyreke Evans’ missed jumper with 1:29 to play before the Kings hit free throws in the final minute.
“I think we’re surprised,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We played some defense in the fourth quarter, but it seemed to be the only quarter we could really get up and defend. … Their big guys came out and really took it (to) our guys and carried the day for their team.”
In Bryant’s first game since earning a starting spot at Staples Center next month in his 13th All-Star game, the leading All-Star vote-getter needed 13 points to pass Olajuwon. He got them all in the first 8 1/2 minutes, breaking downcourt for a one-handed jam for the decisive 24,947th point.
NOTES: Cousins and Gasol exchanged angry looks and lightly bumped chests with 2:52 to play after Gasol forced a turnover by pressuring Cousins near the Lakers’ bench. … Fans entering Staples Center were told they might appear in “Jack and Jill,” a movie starring Adam Sandler, Al Pacino and Katie Holmes. Director Dennis Dugan (“Happy Gilmore”) was in the building with a crew.
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