Evans helps Kings rout Nuggets
SACRAMENTO – Tyreke Evans has found his game.
The NBA rookie of the year last season, the Sacramento guard had 27 points and a season-high 12 assists to help the Kings rout the Denver Nuggets 122-102 on Thursday night.
Evans has struggled for much of the season with foot problems and admitted last month that some family issues were a factor as well. Against the Nuggets, he played effectively throughout, a flashback to his rookie season when he was difficult to stop on a nightly basis.
Evans frequently penetrated the soft Denver defense on drives and made 11 of 18 shots, hit all five free throws and added five rebounds.
“It was one of my best games. I came out and was aggressive,” Evans said. “I was attacking and definitely had them on their heels.”
It was second consecutive game where Evans demonstrated his unique ability to get the basket and finish in traffic. He had 29 points and eight assists Tuesday night in a loss to Atlanta.
“Tyreke looked like he had his quickness back for the second game in a row,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “He’s making a conscious effort to move the ball and himself quicker. It shows in the quality of shots the team is getting.”
The Kings had a 23-2 run midway through the second half to build a 21-point lead in their highest-scoring game of the season. They shot 56 percent and gave Westphal his 300th career victory.
The Kings (8-25) beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season and left Cleveland (8-27) with the NBA’s worst record.
“We don’t believe we’re a bad team even if we have a bad record,” Westphal said. “We played with energy and poise for 48 minutes tonight.”
DeMarcus Cousins scored 20 points, Beno Udrih had 17, Carl Landry 14 and Omri Casspi 13 for the Kings.
Carmelo Anthony had 26 points for Denver. The Nuggets, coming off a 106-93 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, committed 23 turnovers.
Nene added 17 points for Denver, Chauncey Billips had 16 and Al Harrington 15.
“We’re just frustrated right now,” Anthony said. “I know I am after these two losses against two teams that we should have beat. Tonight was an embarrassing loss that’s all I have to say about it.”
After ending the third quarter on a 12-2 run, the Kings scored the first 11 points of the fourth. A fast-break dunk by Casspi gave Sacramento a 102-81 lead at the 8:50 mark.
“They erased that lead pretty fast,” Westphal said. “Denver is going to hit shots, we know that.”
After squandering their entire 14-point halftime lead and allowing Denver to tie it, the Kings ran off 12 straight points late in the third quarter.
Udrih scored eight points and Evans had six in the third to give the Kings a 91-81 lead.
“I’m really kind of blown away by our performance,” Denver coach George Karl said. “Since I’ve been in Denver my team has always bounced back after a tough loss. Sometimes I think we need to think about playing harder and play simple basketball. We had no assists, no steals and 23 turnovers.”
Trailing by 14 points at the half, the Nuggets got going in the third quarter behind Anthony. After a subpar first half, Anthony made all five shots and scored 12 points, including a jumper to tie it at 79.
NOTES: Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, who grew up in Sacramento, was in attendance with son Darren. … After a sizable stretch of home games, the Kings go on the road for six straight, starting Sunday in Toronto. … The biggest ovation of the game probably went to former Kings star Chris Webber, who was announcing the game for TNT.