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Kings snap 5-game skid, outlast Warriors 131-127

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Kings snap 5-game skid, outlast Warriors 131-127

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points, Aaron Brooks added 23 points and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak by outlasting the Golden State Warriors 131-127 on Wednesday night.

After blowing a 15-point lead, Brooks made a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes to help Sacramento pull away. Both teams shot 50 percent, while the Kings had a season high in points and scored more than any team had against the Warriors this season.

Stephen Curry scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half before fouling out, and David Lee had 29 points and eight rebounds in Golden State's worst defensive outing of the season. Only Oklahoma City had shot at least 50 percent against the Warriors.

After going 6-1 on the season's longest road stretch, the Warriors beat New Orleans 103-96 at home on Tuesday night. They returned to the road for the short trip to Sacramento, looking tired and timid on defense from the start.

The most points the Warriors had allowed this season came in a 119-109 loss at Oklahoma City on Nov. 18. The Thunder shot 50.6 percent in that game.

The most points Sacramento had scored was in a 113-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 21. The Kings found their stroke again to beat the Warriors for the second time this season, with both games coming in California's capital city.

The second edition this season had far less defense than when the Kings beat the Warriors 94-92 in their home opener.

Curry fouled out with 2:13 remaining when he reached in on John Salmons' layup attempt. Salmons made one free throw, and Brooks followed with a 3-pointer to extend Sacramento's lead to 122-118.

Then Jarrett Jack, who finished with 28 points, made one of two free throws before Brooks slipped open along the sideline and swished another from beyond the arc to put the Kings ahead by six with 1:12 to play and turn the final seconds into a free throw contest.

The only thing that matched Brooks' fast finish was his strong start.

Brooks made a pair of 3s to highlight Sacramento's 25-12 spurt to open the game. The Kings kept the pace fast, playing the kind of offensive-oriented system that Keith Smart often ran in his only season coaching the Warriors two years ago.

Some sharp shooting didn't hurt, either. Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer put the Kings ahead by 15 points in the middle of the second quarter, and they held on for a 63-55 halftime lead after shooting 50 percent from the floor.

Sacramento showed remarkable offensive efficiency despite Tyreke Evans sitting out with a sore left knee for the second straight game. He has missed seven of the last 11 games because of the injury, including playing 10 minutes in a loss at Denver on Sunday when he re-aggravated his knee.

Marcus Thornton also returned after missing the previous three games to be with his ill mother in Louisiana. He scored 19 points in 31 minutes off the bench.

Carl Landry made four straight jumpers, and Jack pulled up for a 3-pointer to begin the Warriors' late surge. Curry swished two 3-pointers to cap the 17-6 burst that gave Golden State a 112-111 lead halfway through the fourth quarter, jumping in the air and pumping his fist after the second swish.

The Kings beat the Warriors 94-92 in Sacramento's opener Nov. 5.

NOTES: Kings F Francisco Garcia landed hard on his back going for a block in the second quarter. He sat out the second half with a sore back. ... Sacramento tied the all-time series with Golden State at 184-184. ... The Warriors are 2-5 in the first game of a back-to-back this season and 5-2 in the second game. ... Rapper Rick Ross sat courtside.

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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But on Thursday, the Capitals' now former bench boss was officially named the head coach of the New York Islanders.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

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USA TODAY Sports

The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.

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