SACRAMENTO -- The Sixers knew DeMarcus Cousins would be a handful.
“He might be the most difficult player to defend in the NBA right now because of all the ways he can score,” Brett Brown acknowledged at shootaround.
The most important of Cousins’ 30 points came with one shot from long-range. Cousins drained a three with 20 seconds to go to give the Kings a deciding 99-97 lead. He exposed a defensive mismatch against T.J. McConnell while Embiid was in the game.
The Sixers had a chance to win with a three, down 102-100 with five seconds left. Cousins blocked Embiid's attempt to hold on for the victory.
Cousins finished with 30 points (10 for 20 from the field, 2 for 4 from three, 8 for 9 from the line), seven rebounds and five assists. Embiid made his mark in the battle of the bigs, scoring 25 points (8 for 17 from the floor, 1 for 4 from three, 8 for 9 from the line) with eight rebounds.
The Sixers overcame an 11-point deficit but gave up a 13-0 run early in the fourth. There were 10 lead changes and seven ties between the two teams. The Sixers dropped to 7-23 while the Kings won their fourth straight and improved to 14-17.
Inside the stats
Embiid recorded his 10th 20+ point outing in just 21 games played this season.
Sergio Rodriguez scored 18 points with five assists and three rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova added 17 points and four rebounds off the bench.
Nerlens Noel logged three minutes, all in the first half. He did not play with another center.
Dario Saric scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter. He closed in on a double-double with nine rebounds.
Rudy Gay posted 17 points and nine boards. Ty Lawson added 12 points off the Kings’ bench.
On the run
He can run the fastbreak, too. Embiid picked off a Ty Lawson pass and slammed it home on the break. Watch it all here.
Unreal.. Joel Embiid with the steal and the slam #NBAVote #SixersTalk pic.twitter.com/ZBgvWudaYP— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 27, 2016
Richaun Holmes remains back in Philadelphia following the NBA’s concussion protocol. Nik Stauskas was probable because of a right knee contusion and did play. Arron Afflalo missed the game with a right elbow sprain for the Kings.
Rodriguez’s time in Sacramento was short but memorable to some fans. The point guard played 39 games for the Kings during the 2009-10 season. All these years later, fans showed up wearing Rodriguez’s number 10 Kings jersey. Other Sixers’ jerseys spotted included Allen Iverson and Ben Simmons.
The Sixers will travel to Salt Lake City, where they will have two days of practice before taking on the Jazz (18-13) Wednesday night. After that, they’re off to Denver to wrap up the road trip with a back-to-back against the Nuggets (12-18) on Thursday.