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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Guard Marcus Thornton (23) led six Kings in double figures with 22 points.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Thomas Robinson of the Kings controls a rebound as Portland's J.J. Hickson tries to swat the ball away from behind.

Kings have 31 assists, stop Blazers' five-game win streak without Cousins

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 - 8:35 pm

The Kings moved training camp to Colorado in October, went through team-building exercises and spent the summer trying to become more of a family so when things got rough during the season, they could recall those experiences and the bonds that were built.

The last few days have put a strain on the Kings, but they put the distractions aside Sunday night.

With one member of the family told to stay away, the Kings played an unselfish brand of basketball and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 108-96 at Sleep Train Arena.

It was the first game for the Kings since the team suspended leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team. The Kings are 1-3 this season without Cousins, who has missed three other games because of league suspensions.

Without Cousins, the Kings put together one of their best team efforts of the season. The Kings had a season-high 31 assists with 17 coming in the first half, also a season best.

"Number one thing was 31 assists," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "That tells the story right there; not just making shots, but 31 assists for this group after everything we've been through over the last couple of days."

Cousins' banishment came after a halftime outburst with Smart during Friday's loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

The players weren't calling Sunday's win a statement on how they could play without Cousins but rather a statement of what happens when everyone puts the team first.

That was the point of those team-building exercises in October.

Besides Cousins, the Kings were without their second-leading scorer, Tyreke Evans, because of a sore left knee. The team also was without Evans' replacement in the starting lineup, Francisco Garcia (sore lower back).

"We're definitely missing them, but the league isn't going to feel sorry for us," forward James Johnson said. "These guys are going for the throat because we don't have DeMarcus Cousins or Tyreke Evans. We can't feel sorry for ourselves; we just have to play hard basketball."

The Kings did that Sunday to end Portland's five-game winning streak. Six players scored in double figures, led by Marcus Thornton with 22 points.

The Kings shot 55.6 percent and made a season-high 45 field goals.

The Kings shot 70.6 percent (24 for 34) in the second half, a season high for shooting in a half.

"We have guys that are open, and we're trying to make the correct pass at the correct time," Thornton said. "Every guy on this team can play a role on this team, and it's on us to step forward and do it."

The Kings (9-18) had to do that against a bigger Portland (13-13) team without Cousins, their starting center.

While the Kings don't welcome the off-the-court issues with Cousins, they haven't forgotten him, either.

Thornton said he spoke to Cousins on Sunday. After all, he's still part of the family.

"You've always got the one family member (who) kind of does their own thing, and you don't always agree with their ways but you still love them," Chuck Hayes said.

So, does that make Cousins the crazy uncle of the Kings?

"Not so much the crazy uncle but the uncle you raise your eyebrow at like, 'Why did he do that?' " Hayes said. "He's still family here; we still have him here. We're not writing him off.

"Every now and then, a family member needs some discipline and to be told what to do. That's what's happening and when he's ready to come back, we'll let that happen."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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