Kings Earn Huge Back-to-Back Wins

By Rob Small,

For the Sacramento Kings, January was only a sample of how tough the rest of the season would be. Starting last week, the Kings would face the toughest teams the league could offer for most of the rest of the season.

Out of the last 40 games of the season, 22 are against surefire playoff teams.

The past week started at home with the Charlotte Bobcats but moved on to back-to-back games against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets.

The Kings hosted the Bobcats on the second night of a back-to-back. Fouls proved to be a big factor in the game as the Kings committed 30 fouls while the Bobcats had 29. Both teams combined for 17 fouls in the first quarter alone and the first possession of each quarter started with a foul.

The Kings’ shooting were an even bigger factor, shooting only 27.3 percent from the field in the first quarter. Even though the Kings cut the Bobcats’ lead from 13 points to three in the second half, the Kings were unable to overcome Charlotte’s shooting late in the game.

Boris Diaw’s late three-pointer stretched the Bobcats’ lead to 10, putting the game out of reach for the Kings, who lost 94-89.

The Kings shot 24 for 29 from the free-throw line but shooting only 36 percent from the field and missed lay-ups cost the Kings a chance to win the game.

Tyreke Evans finished with 19 points, eight rebounds five assists, a steal and a block. Carl Landry was the only player who shot well for the Kings, scoring 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting (50 percent) and made all seven of his free throws.

The Kings would have a tough back-to-back schedule waiting for them. They would face the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, followed by the surging New Orleans Hornets the next night.

Going into the game the Kings have lost eight-straight games against the Lakers. Their last win was at home on Dec. 9, 2008. Playing their Pacific Division rivals on the road wouldn’t make it easier.

As Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scored 12 of the team’s first 19 points, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant passed Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth on the all-time scoring list en route to an amazing 21 first quarter points and 38 points in the game.

The Kings hung tough with the defending champs scoring most of their points in the paint, but in the third quarter it was the Kings who pulled away by as much as 20 points.

Although the Kings held an 16-point lead the Lakers staged a furious comeback attempt, cutting the Kings’ lead to three points. This would be one lead the Kings were able to hold onto as they held off the Lakers 100-95 and spoil Bryant’s historic night.

Cousins finished with team-highs of 27 points 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Omri Casspi finished 20 points and eight rebounds while guarding Bryant. Samuel Dalembert had a season-high 18 points off the bench.

“It’s a good win for this team,” Cousins said in a postgame interview. “We’ve been struggling all year and getting a win like this – this gave us momentum. Hopefully, we can turn this thing (season) around.”

“We’ve been getting better all year,” Westphal said after the game. “Some people are starting to notice we’ve been playing pretty well and had a lot of heartbreaking losses.

“Haven’t learned how to hold leads too well, but now we’ve held leads on the road against really good teams.”

The Kings’ frontline of Cousins, Dalembert and Carl Landry outscored the Lakers’ frontline of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom 57-25.

“They kept Bynum off balance tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the loss. “Pau never really had opportunities that he normally has; high-post, low-post type of things.”

As sweet as this victory was for the Kings, their celebration would have to be short because they would face the red-hot Hornets the next night. Going into the game, the Hornets have won 12 of their last 14 games and were on a 10-game winning streak.

Going into the game, it was the Kings who looked hot. They led the Hornets by as much as 17-points in the first half. The Kings led 56-46 and Cousins had another hot start with 19 points.

The tide turned in the second half when Evans picked up his fifth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter. The Hornets eventually pulled to within two points of the Kings with 1:43 left in the game, making a similar run to what the Lakers had the previous night.

Just when it seemed like the Kings were about to give up their lead, Cousins, who was one foul away from fouling out, drew an offensive foul to give the Kings the ball back.

That play was followed by three offensive rebounds by the Kings, with Dalembert scoring the tip shot. The Kings ended the game on an 8-2 run to end the Hornets’ 10-game winning streak and won 102-96.

It was the first time this season that the Kings won games on back-to-back nights. Cousins had another dominant performance, finishing with 25 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high seven assists. Evans finished with 18 points and six assists.

The Kings now hold a 12-33 record and have won three of their last four games and may play without Jason Thompson, who sprained his ankle and is listed as day-to-day.

Player of the Week

Cousins has been playing at a high-level against playoff-caliber teams. In the past three games, he’s averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists and two steals per game.

He’s performed well against two quality centers on back-to-back nights – the Lakers’ Bynum and the Horne’ts Emeka Okafor. In two games combined, Cousins had 52 points, 22 rebounds and nine assists.

Despite all the problems that he had in the first half of the season, keep in mind that he’s only 20 years old and the past two performances he had could be a sign of things to come in the future.

Rookie Performance

Cousins: See Player of the Week

After a college homecoming in Portland, Pooh Jeter had a homecoming in L.A. Jeter’s high school jersey was retired at Serra in Gardena, Calif.

Jeter knows his family won’t boo him, just his team. “Everybody’s a Laker fan,” Jeter said about his family in the Sacramento Bee. “They say they don’t boo me when we play against them. They say they boo my team because they’re Laker fans.”

In the past three games, he averaged 4.3 points and 1.6 assists in 12.3 minutes per game.

Hassan Whiteside could be active if Jason Thompson misses any games with a sprained ankle. Whiteside hasn’t played since the first game of the season.

Play of the Week

Donté Greene cleans up Jeter’s miss with a strong putback dunk.

What’s Next?

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Kings going into February. The Kings will host two teams with the best records in the NBA. The Boston Celtics hold the NBA’s second-best record at 36-11 and will play the Kings tomorrow night.

Despite being a perennial playoff team, the San Antonio Spurs have been the surprise team season of the team and hold a 40-7 record, the best in the NBA. They will visit Sacramento on Friday.

The Utah Jazz, another playoff team, will come in next Monday.

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Posted by on Jan 31 2011. Filed under Kings/NBA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “Kings Earn Huge Back-to-Back Wins”

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