Kings

Cousins and Thomas lead Kings past Toronto 98-91

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Cousins and Thomas lead Kings past Toronto 98-91

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- DeMarcus Cousins wants to put "the silly stuff" behind him and just play basketball. So far, he seems to be doing exactly that.Cousins had 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points and the Sacramento Kings snapped a seven-game losing streak in Toronto by beating the Raptors 98-91 Wednesday night.An escalating feud with former coach Paul Westphal led Cousins to demand a trade earlier this month, resulting in him being told to stay away from the team for a game. The spat was resolved when Westphal was fired and replaced by Keith Smart, who offered Cousins his support, and a blank slate."He's a new player, man," Evans said. "I'm happy for him. He's done a great job just going out there and playing, helping us, not arguing with anybody on the team, just staying focused."He plays like that, he's an All-Star for sure," Evans added. "The way he's playing right now is unbelievable. We need that out of him every night."Cousins acknowledged that things have been more fun since Smart took over."We're just out there playing ball, playing together and having fun," he said. "We're having fun while we're working hard. That's the biggest thing."Cousins, whose previous career high in rebounds was 18, set against Utah on March 5, 2011, said he wasn't aware how many he had until teammates on the bench started letting him know."In the moment you don't even realize it," Cousins said. "Towards the end of the game they were like Get one more, you'll have 20.' I'm just out there grabbing boards. That's my job, to get everything that comes off the glass."Smart played Cousins for just over 39 minutes to build his conditioning, and his stats: The double-double was his fourth straight."He had it in him to rebound tonight," Smart said. "Because he had that, it put him in an active mode and I'm happy with that."Rookie guard Isaiah Thomas scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and Jimmer Fredette had 10 for the Kings, who had not won in Toronto since Feb. 22, 2004.Sacramento had lost two straight and four of five coming in, but held on to record its first road victory in five tries this season."It's definitely exciting to get that first (road) win, get that monkey off our backs," Fredette said.Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score a season-high 24 points while DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon each had 13 for the Raptors, who have lost four of five.With the score 63-all heading into the fourth, Toronto scored the first four points to lead 67-63. Thomas answered with a 3-pointer and, after a hook shoot by Linas Kleiza, Evans hit another 3, giving the Kings a lead they would not relinquish.Amir Johnson's alley-oop dunk cut it to 82-77 with 2:34 left, but Cousins answered with a pair of free throws and then a dunk of his own as the Kings pushed their lead to nine points, 86-77, with 1:12 left.DeRozan had a three-point play, but Evans kept the Raptors at bay by making four consecutive free throws on the next two possessions. The 2010 Rookie of the Year finished a perfect 14 of 14 from the line.Toronto lost leading scorer Andrea Bargnani to a strained left calf with 3:13 left in the third quarter. Bargnani, who did not return, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes."He's our best player for sure," Calderon said. "After they let us know he wasn't coming out again, it was tough."Kleiza, out since undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee last Feb. 1, made his return to the lineup, coming on late in the first quarter. Kleiza scored 10 points in 14 minutes."I feel good, it's fun to be back," Kleiza said. "The game didn't end the way anybody wanted but for me personally, after a year off, it feels good to be back."Barbosa scored 12 points in the second, but Thomas had eight for the Kings, who led 41-40 at the half.NOTES: Fredette made his second straight start in place of Marcus Thornton (left thigh contusion). ... Toronto played its third game in as many nights, their only such stretch of the season. ... Raptors F Amir Johnson hit a rare 3-pointer in the third quarter, just the third of his career. ... Sacramento's 31 made free throws were a season high. ... Toronto has turned the ball over 18 or more times in three of the past four games.

Gameday: Can Kings slow down Rockets from beyond the arc?

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AP

Gameday: Can Kings slow down Rockets from beyond the arc?

Sacramento rebooted the franchise at the trade deadline last season and begin anew this season with veteran additions Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph to compliment a bevy of young players. 

Houston reloaded in the offseason, adding nine-time All-Star Chris Paul and a veteran defenders P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. They put on a show against the Warriors and look like one of the best the Western Conference has to offer once again. 

BETTING LINE 

Rockets by 8

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Kings defense vs. The 3-pointer -- Houston launched an incredible 180 3-point attempts versus Sacramento last season, hitting a robust 75 (41.7 percent) of those shots. It’s a new-look roster for the Kings, but they’ve had very little time to develop defensive chemistry. Dave Joerger and his staff will game plan to slow the Rockets perimeter game, but Mike D’Antoni has a deep group that comes at you in waves.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 0-0

Rockets: 1-0

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: SG Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) out, PF Zach Randolph (tooth) questionable

Rockets: PG Chris Paul (bruised right knee) questionable

SERIES HISTORY 

The Rockets swept the Kings last season 4-0, including a 135-128 victory in the final week of the season. Houston leads the all-time series 124-88 and they hold an 83-42 advantage during the Sacramento-era. 

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE ROOKIES - The Kings walk into the 2017-18 campaign with five rookies on the roster, four of which should see time early in the season. De’Aaron Fox is the headliner, but don’t be shocked if Justin Jackson, Frank Mason and Bogdan Bogdanovic play important roles on this team.

ROTATIONS - With 10 new faces on the roster, Joerger needed more than an abbreviated training camp and six preseason contests. Expect the coaching staff to try different looks throughout the first 20 games of the season as they search for answers.

BALANCING THE ROSTER - Joerger has five veterans and 10 players with two years of experience or less. If he goes with the vets, fans will call for the rookies. If he plays the rookies and the losses stack up, fans will call for his head. It’s an unenviable position that will require patience and a little faith.

QUOTE

“I’m expecting a high-paced game. I feel like our fans are going to come out, they’re going to give us a lot of energy, playing a team as good as Houston is.” -De’Aaron Fox

Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away

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USATSI

Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away

SACRAMENTO - All hands on deck. The Sacramento Kings open the 2017-18 schedule Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center and it looks like they might do so with a full arsenal of players at their disposal.

Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to practice on Sunday and then participated in the team’s annual Fanfest. If his dance moves are any indication, the 19-year-old’s back is feeling just fine.

Veteran George Hill tweaked his groin Friday against the Golden State Warriors, leaving his availability for opening night in question. Hill, 31, who has a history of groin injuries, was on the court Monday practicing and said he is ready to play.

“Everything is feeling good right now,” Hill said Monday following practice.

The only player who didn’t practice on Monday is rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic, who sprained his right ankle against the Warriors. According to head coach Dave Joerger,  the team is hopeful that the Serbian sharpshooter will return in time for Game 1.

“We’re still shooting for Wednesday for both of them,” Joerger said of Hill and Bogdanovic.

New look Rockets

The Rockets went 55-27 last season under head coach Mike D’Antoni, but that didn’t stop them from going all in during the offseason. With MVP runner-up James Harden already manning the backcourt, Houston added nine-time All-Star Chris Paul as their new starting point guard.

“Leadership, he’s a floor general,” Hill said about Paul. “Anywhere he goes, he’ll make a team better. We know they were already a good team without him, coming in with him is going to be a bigger task.”

It’s a new look roster and the expectations are huge for the Rockets. Houston averaged 115.3 points per game last season and led the league in both 3-point attempts and makes. This season, they also added two strong perimeter defenders in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

It’s a huge test coming out of the gate for Sacramento. Following the contest against the Rockets, the Kings hit the road for three straight before returning to Golden 1 next Thursday to face DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans.


Camp notes

With the season just around the corner, the Sacramento Kings made their final roster cuts on Sunday afternoon. David Stockton, Matt Jones and Reggie Hearn were waived, leaving the Kings with 15 rostered players and two two-way players in Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson.

Stockton, Jones and Hearn are all expected to join the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s G-League.