Kings play spoiler, soundly beat surging Rockets


Kings play spoiler, soundly beat surging Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) Rick Adelman's former team hurt the playoff hopes of his current one.Marcus Thornton and Samuel Dalembert scored 21 points apiece, Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins each grabbed 15 rebounds and the Sacramento Kings hurt Houston's playoff hopes with a 104-101 win over the Rockets on Tuesday night.Tyreke Evans scored 18 points and Cousins scored 15 for the Kings.Kevin Martin scored 30 for the Rockets, who blew an opportunity to gain ground on Memphis in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.Houston was three games behind the Grizzlies and New Orleans entering the game, and Memphis lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.The Rockets play in New Orleans on Wednesday night, a virtual must-win to keep their postseason chances flickering.Kyle Lowry had 15 points and nine assists and Luis Scola had 18 points for the Rockets, who had a seven-game home winning streak snapped.Houston slipped to 15-6 since the All-Star break, and lost for just the third time in 11 games."From the tipoff, we just seemed to not have our energy that we had for the last couple of months," Martin said. "It's a bad time of year to not play like you've been playing for the last couple of months. For whatever reason, we just looked really tired in a lot of spurts."The Kings, meanwhile, have hit their stride too late in the season for it to matter. Long out of the postseason mix, Sacramento has won six of its past eight games."We are playing hard and together as a team," Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. "We finally have our team together, and we like what we see. I give our players credit for their continued improvement. The players are making a statement that they care about things."The Kings shot well and never trailed in the second half.Thornton's fadeaway jumper with 1:26 remaining put Sacramento up 96-90, and Martin lost the ball on the Rockets' next possession, their 14th turnover.The Kings twice fouled Lowry on 3-point tries in the final minute, and Houston's point guard went 5 of 6 from the free-throw line to give Houston a chance at the end.But Dalembert made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds to go, grabbed a defensive rebound and made another one with five seconds left to put it out of reach."We lost our poise a lot during the stretch, but we didn't dwell on it," Westphal said. "Then, we still found a way to win the game."Sacramento shot 53 percent (44 of 83) and snapped a four-game losing streak to Houston. The Kings scored 58 points in the paint and outrebounded the Rockets 46-43.Sacramento led 52-46 after making 23 of 43 shots in the first half and outscoring Houston 34-20 in the paint. Cousins already had his 24th double-double of the season at the break, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.Dalembert scored three baskets inside early in the third quarter to move the Kings out to a nine-point lead. Lowry made his first 3-pointer and Scola scored from the top of the key to pull Houston back within four, and Scola finished a fast break with a layup to cut the deficit to 64-62.Thornton scored three baskets in a 40-second span as Sacramento pushed the lead to 10. The Rockets rallied again before the end of the quarter, with Lowry capping a 10-2 spurt with a running jump shot.Houston committed four turnovers in the first five minutes of the fourth and the Kings rebuilt a 10-point lead. The Rockets also missed seven of their first nine shots in the final quarter."The last month, we've been playing extremely hard," Lowry said. "When the shots didn't fall, I think the frustration got to us a little bit."Beno Udrih hit a jumper, then drove for a layup to give Sacramento its biggest lead at 92-80 with six minutes left.Courtney Lee and Lowry finished a 10-2 Houston run with 3-pointers, cutting the gap to 94-90 at the 2-minute mark. The Rockets had a chance to get closer, but Scola was called for an offensive foul trailing a fast break.Notes: Cousins has nine double-doubles in his past 19 games. ... The Kings won for only the second time in their past nine trips to Houston. ... Thornton has scored 20 points or more in 10 of his past 14 games. ... Martin has reached 30 points in five of his past 12 games. ... Houston went 14 for 21 from the free-throw line, after missing a total of 13 free throws over the previous five games.

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game


Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with demotion, you have two options, sulk or come out swinging. Willie Cauley-Stein chose option two Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.

After starting all 14 games to begin the season, Cauley-Stein found himself relegated to the second unit against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 7-footer looked energized by the move and made one play after another as the Kings came away with the 86-82 victory.

“I felt free - period,” Cauley-Stein said following the win. “Both offensively, defensively. I’m quarterbacking on defense. I’m getting to make plays on offense. I just feel liberated. I feel like it’s unlocking.”

The third-year big began the 2017-18 campaign with back-to-back double-doubles, but hadn’t notched double-figures in rebounds since. Over his previous eight games, the Kings’ starting center was averaging just 4.3 boards per game.

Against Portland, Cauley-Stein played sparkling defense, hit 9-of-17 from the floor for a team-high 22 points and hit the glass for 10 boards. He skied above the Blazers bigs for a rebound with 3.4 seconds remaining and his second free throw attempt sealed the win for a Kings team in desperate need of a win.

“Willie’s a hell of a player, obviously,” veteran big Kosta Koufos said. “He’s really athletic, he’s a special talent.”

Koufos and Cauley-Stein made a devastating defensive duo for Sacramento. Both bigs showed on the high pick-and-roll and avoided fouling the Blazers high-powered guards.

“That’s a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been waiting for that lineup since we started.”

Damian Lillard scored 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field and 5-for-14 from long range. C.J. McCollum knocked down 8-of-15 from the floor, but he missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Sacramento closed out and pressured the shooter all night long.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only starter to find himself on the bench to start the game. Dave Joerger turned to a dual point guard backcourt, using De’Aaron Fox and George Hill side-by-side, while bringing rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic in with the second unit.

Playing off the ball for long stretches, Hill responded to the move with 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Fox had a quiet offensive night, but his defense on both Lillard and McCollum was inspired.

“We can both attack and he’s a great shooter so that really helps me,” Fox said of Hill. “He’s a mentor on the court. It’s a lot easier to play with him then to watch him play.”

Sacramento held Portland to just 37 percent shooting overall and 28 percent from behind the arc. They pressured the Blazers in the backcourt and slowed the game to screeching halt.

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-11 on the season. They jumped a plane for Portland following the game where they’ll face the same Trail Blazer team Saturday in a rare back-to-back against the same team.

The Kings likely be without the services of shooting guard Buddy Hield, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Hield limped into the locker room on crutches following the victory and the initial indications point to him missing the rematch.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach


A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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