Cousins' double-double rallies Kings past Suns
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
Fourth-quarter comebacks have been common for the Sacramento Kings this season. The one Tuesday night was different, though, because they finally won.
The Kings, who outscored Phoenix 25-16 in the fourth, scored the final 10 points of the game in a run that was aided by three straight Suns turnovers in the closing minutes as Sacramento halted a two-game skid.
The teams play again Wednesday night in Phoenix.
''I never say, `Wait until the fourth quarter.' We have to give a much more consistent effort,'' Kings coach Michael Malone said. ''I can't figure us out at times. We're first in the league in fewest turnovers, but we've had games recently where we look like the Keystone Cops. That needs to be cleaned up, especially going into their house tomorrow.'
Overall, the Kings have had little to feel good about early this season. Despite a favorable schedule with a number of home games, they dropped seven of eight after defeating Denver in the opener.
Selfish play on offense, combined with a lack of defensive effort and overall hustle, has typified the Kings thus far. But that wasn't the case in the fourth quarter when Sacramento forced six turnovers and limited the Suns to 32 percent shooting.
''Everybody was doing whatever it took to win this game,'' said reserve guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth, including two huge free throws. ''A win like this builds confidence that we can be a good defensive team. This is a positive step forward for us.''
It was definitely a positive step forward for rookie Ben McLemore.
He made four 3-pointers and had a season-high 19 points. That was six more points than he had combined in his previous three starts since replacing Marcus Thornton at shooting guard.
''I just wanted to come out and stay aggressive,'' said McLemore, who also had five rebounds and a block in a season-high 34 minutes. ''My teammates and our coaching staff has confidence and told me to just keep shooting. Even after I missed shots tonight, I kept shooting. I'm a shooter; that's what I do.''
Cousins was dominant inside for much of the game, even though his left shoulder popped out of place in the second quarter and bothered him slightly for the rest of the night. The Kings' physical center shot 9 of 18 and added four steals, three assists and two blocks.
''After a few pain pills my adrenaline got going and it kind of went away, but it will really be hurting tomorrow,'' Cousins said, adding the shoulder wasn't separated.
Gerald Green scored 23 points and Marcus Morris had 19 for the Suns, who lost their third straight and dropped to 1-4 on the road. Phoenix had 16 turnovers and was outrebounded 48-31.
Archie Goodwin scored 16 and Goran Dragic had 10 points and eight assists with seven turnovers.
''The way we play (up tempo), we're going to have some turnovers,'' said Channing Frye, who had 17 points and nine rebounds. ''But there's a difference between good turnovers and bad turnovers. And tonight we had too many bad turnovers.''
Morris missed a corner 3-pointer and Cousins grabbed the rebound and made one of two free throws with just under a second left to preserve the victory.
Phoenix's five losses this season are by a total of 16 points.
''That one was the worst of them all,'' coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''You can't go down to the end of the game and have five or six straight turnovers. We were just not taking care of the ball. They run the plays. They don't run them the right way and then we turn it over. Give them credit, they stuck in there.''
Travis Outlaw tied the score with a jumper and Thomas followed with two free throws to put the Kings ahead 106-104 with 30.4 seconds left. It was Sacramento's first lead since early in the second quarter.
With the Kings trailing by seven, Thomas made two free throws and Cousins had a three-point play to cut the Suns' lead to 104-102.
Phoenix played without starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, who bruised his left shin in practice this week. Bledsoe leads the team in scoring (20.4) and assists (6.8).
After the Kings tied the score at 97, Frye made a putback to put the Suns ahead. Dragic followed with a runner and Green's 3-pointer off a fast break extended the lead to 104-97.
The Kings made three 3-pointers early in the third quarter, and the final one by Jimmer Fredette cut the Phoenix lead to 95-93 with 7:42 left in the fourth.
Green scored 11 points in the third quarter when the Suns stretched the lead to 14 on several occasions. But McLemore hit two 3s and had 11 points for the Kings, who closed the gap to 88-82 heading into the fourth.
Morris scored 14 points and Goodwin had 12 to help Phoenix take a 62-54 lead into halftime. The Suns shot 54 percent and made 17 of 22 free throws in the opening half.
NOTES: Hornacek was called for a technical midway through the first quarter. ... Thomas scored in double figures off the bench for the 10th straight game to start the season, establishing a franchise record that he previously shared with Walt Williams. ... Goodwin stole a pass and dunked at the other end to conclude a 10-0 run for the Suns to open the second quarter. ... McLemore made two 3s and had eight first-quarter points. In his previous three starts, McLemore shot 5 of 20 and had 14 total points. ... Thornton, who started the first six games but has struggled in the early going, didn't play for the first time this season.