Kings

Kings stop Blazers' winning streak

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Kings stop Blazers' winning streak

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- It appears the Sacramento Kings can play well without their controversial leading scorer and rebounder, DeMarcus Cousins.

With Cousins not in the arena due for disciplinary reasons, the Kings were an effective, unselfish team.

Now the question is whether they can keep it up.

Marcus Thornton scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half to help the slumping Kings snap Portland's five-game winning streak with a 108-96 victory over the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

Cousins, who is the starting center, was suspended indefinitely Saturday for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team. The third-year player and Kings head coach Keith Smart had a confrontation during halftime of Friday's 97-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Smart told Cousins to stay in the locker room and not join the team for the second half.

Sacramento had six players in double figures and recorded a season-high 31 assists against Portland. The Kings pulled away in the second half, shooting nearly 71 percent after the break. Using its eighth different starting lineup this season, Sacramento had a season-best 45 field goals.

"We were missing DeMarcus, so we had a different lineup out there and it worked out tonight," said James Johnson, who made a rare start at power forward while Jason Thompson moved to center. "We were a small team tonight so we ran fast and played very unselfish."

Both Thornton and Salmons helped spark the second-half surge after both were relative non-factors in the opening half. The pair combined for 31 second-half points, helping the Kings pull away.

Thornton made 8 of 11 shots in the second half and finished with four rebounds and four assists. Salmons had 13 of his 15 points in the second half and also added seven rebounds and seven assists.

"John is a very unselfish player and can get his own shots," Thornton said. "He got going in the second half. Me and the first half didn't do so well. But I came on at the right time and got hot in the second half."

Already ahead by nine points, the Kings opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Thornton, to build their lead to 87-71. The Blazers trailed by at least 12 the rest of the way.

"I just think it was one of those games where the other team played better than us," Portland rookie guard Damian Lillard said. "There probably were some defensive mistakes we made that we shouldn't have and they took advantage of it."

Former Blazer Travis Outlaw had a season-high 15 points and Isaiah Thomas added 11 for the Kings, who had lost six of their previous seven games. Both Thompson and Johnson chipped in 10 points.

"It's definitely fun playing against some former teammates," Outlaw said. "I wish I could go out and do it against other teams that well. Everybody got great looks at the rim tonight. We played very unselfish."

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who have lost two of three meetings with the Kings this season. Lillard had 15 points and seven assists, Nicolas Batum scored 17, and JJ Hickson had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Kings haven't said when Cousins will be allowed to rejoin the team again. He was told not to attend the game. Cousins is averaging team bests of 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.

"There are a few things we need to sit down and talk about," Smart said. "We have a couple of days before our next game and our executive staff will discuss things and go from there."

Sacramento also played without starting guard Tyreke Evans, who missed his fourth straight game with a sore left knee. Evans, the Kings second-leading scorer, has missed 8 of the past 12 games.

"I thought they played very well without their key players," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "In this league when players are missing for whatever reasons the other players take that as an opportunity to play well."

The scoring of Thornton kept the Kings on top in the third quarter. The streak-shooting Thornton had 11 points and Brooks hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, helping Sacramento carry an 80-71 lead into the fourth.

Outlaw keyed a second-quarter effort by Sacramento's reserves. He had 13 points and Thomas had eight points and five assists, helping the Kings outscore Portland 28-15 and take a 49-42 lead into halftime.

Trailing by 10 early in the second quarter, the Kings responded with a 15-0 run to take a 36-31 lead.

Notes: Portland made just 7 of 24 from 3-point range. ... Blazers starting guard Wesley Matthews has a left hip injury and didn't travel with the team. Seldom-used Victor Claver started in the Blazers backcourt. ... Outlaw's 13 points in the second quarter was two more than his season high entering the game. He scored 11 points against the Blazers in a Kings victory in Portland on Dec. 8. ... The two teams don't play again until Dec. 26 in Portland.

Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

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AP

Gameday: Kings open homestand against shorthanded Nuggets

SACRAMENTO -- Home cooking. For the first time this season, the Sacramento Kings will play three straight games at Golden 1 Center, beginning Monday evening against the Denver Nuggets. In a scheduling anomaly, the Kings have already played three three-game road trips and 10 of their first 16 games away from home.

Denver is coming off a 127-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. They’ll take on a young Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back and they’ll have to do so without both of their starting forwards.

Expect plenty of small ball, three guard sets as the Nuggets try to turn up the pace and run the Kings off the floor.

BETTING LINE

Nuggets by 6

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Nikola Jokic -- Since being relegated to the bench two games ago, Cauley-Stein has become a monster. He’s posted 20 points and 9.5 rebounds over his last two outings and seems to have found himself with the second team. After a slow start to the season, the Joker has found his game. He’s posting 15.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and a team-high 4.5 assists. Jokic is one of the best passing bigs in the NBA and he’s knocking down 41.5 percent of his three-balls.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 4-12, fifth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 9-7, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) out, F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Nuggets: SF Wilson Chandler (low back) out, PF Paul Millsap (left wrist) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

FINDING THE BOTTOM OF THE NET -- While Cauley-Stein has flourished with the reserves, Skal Labissiere has fallen on hard times with the starters. The second-year big has taken plenty of high quality shots, they just don’t want to settle in. He’s too talented of a player to continue missing shots, but over his first two starts, he’s hit on just 1-of-15 from the field and scored three total points. The Kings could use a breakout performance from their starting power forward.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY -- Frank Mason has played roughly 21 minutes per night since Dave Joerger shook up his lineup last Friday. He’s done a nice job of holding down the reserve point guard minutes while George Hill has shifted to the shooting guard spot. The Kings need their rookie to continue to grow into his role and supply leadership with the second unit.

CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THE DEFENSIVE END -- For stretches over the last two games, the Kings have looked like a defensive juggernaut. They are long, quick and athletic. They need to find a way to hit shots to stay in ball games, but the effort has been there, especially on the defensive end.

SERIES HISTORY

Denver leads the season series 1-0 after an early season win at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets hold a slim lead the all-time series 89-88, but the Kings are up 65-64 during the Sacramento-era.

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

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AP

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

Rinse and repeat. After shocking the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings hopped on a plane where they’ll face the same team on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back.

Dave Joerger shook up his lineup on Friday, installing De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings responded with their best defensive effort of the season. Cauley-Stein went off for 22 points and 10 rebounds with the second unit and his defensive effort was next level.

The Blazers have become a two-man wrecking crew. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum score the bulk of the team’s points on a nightly basis, but coach Terry Stotts is still searching someone who is ready to step up and help. Jusuf Nurkic is part of the puzzle, but the Blazers need more consistency from the other 12 players on the roster.

BETTING LINE:
Blazers by 12

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
De’Aaron Fox vs. Damian Lillard -- Fox put on a defensive show against Portland at Golden 1 Center. The rookie came into the league with high-end potential as a two-way player and he showed it against Lillard, holding the All-Star point guard to 29 points, but on 9-of-25 shooting. Lillard loves to hoist up shots. If Fox can't provide the same pressure, the Kings will struggle to keep up with the Blazers.

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 4-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-7, third place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) out, F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Trail Blazers: F Al Farouq Aminu (ankle) out, G C.J. Wilcox (knee) out, PG Wade Baldwin (thumb) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
CONSISTENCY -- You can’t show flashes of brilliance and then take a step back. The Kings defensive effort and overall intensity won the game on Friday night. It’s a place to build from.

FINDING A ROLE -- Joerger shook up everything when he turned to Fox and Labissiere. Offensively, both players struggled, as did Bogdanovic off the bench. This group of young players needs to find a role and figure out a way to help the team, even when the shots aren’t falling.

GET DEFENSIVE -- Portland didn’t know what hit them Friday evening, but they’ll have a few hours to make adjustments. Sacramento’s bigs showed on every high screen and roll. The guard and wing play was aggressive and spot on. The Kings are young and energetic. If they can focus that energy on the defensive end night in and night out, they might have a chance to build something.

SERIES HISTORY:
Sacramento leads the season series 1-0 after Friday night’s win. The Blazers lead the all-time series 129-78 and they own the Kings during the Sacramento-era 88-47.

QUOTE:
"Whether you think the sky is falling or not, we are 3-3 in our last 6 games." - Dave Joerger