TONY DEJAK / Associated Press

Center DeMarcus Cousins, flipping a pass by the Cavaliers' Tyler Zeller, had six assists to lead the Kings to their second road win.

Cousins continues to feed hungry teammates; Kings win in Cleveland

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 - 5:50 pm

CLEVELAND – It's one thing for DeMarcus Cousins to say the Kings play better when they share the basketball.

It's another for Cousins to put that into action. Cousins has tried to do that more lately, and it's working.

Cousins scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds Wednesday, but it was a pass to John Salmons for his sixth assist of the night that was his biggest play in helping the Kings beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-94 at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was the Kings' second road win in 15 games.

The Kings (12-20) trailed 90-89, having squandered a 10-point lead in the third quarter, when Cousins found Salmons in the corner for a three-pointer and a 92-90 lead with 52.9 seconds to play. Cousins' six assists led the Kings.

"I know every time I touch the ball I'm going to draw two or three defenders, so I know I'm going to find somebody," Cousins said.

Finding the open teammate has been a struggle for the Kings most of the season, but lately the Kings continue to show the willingness to pass the ball to an open teammate.

Cousins has tried to lead the way.

"I keep saying I feel like when this team shares the ball, we're hard to beat," Cousins said. "And if I've got to take away from my shots just to get everyone else going in the spirit of sharing the ball, I'll do that."

The Kings are 5-3 in their past eight games and have won three of four since Cousins returned from a two-game banishment following an argument with coach Keith Smart on Dec. 21 in Los Angeles.

Cousins is averaging 16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists in those four games.

Smart said Cousins has done a better job of reading the defense and finding teammates when he's double teamed.

"I hope I don't have to go through all that again to get to this point," Smart said. "But we all know that's the only thing that's missing from his game, to allow his teammates to play with him."

Cousins said the change in approach is part of him being tired of losing. And, he's working on not bringing negative publicity to the team.

"Just trying to keep out all the negativity and not bring negativity to this team," Cousins said. "And just trying to have a positive mind. I have a fresh start. It's a fresh year, so let's get all that behind us and let's bring something positive to Sacramento."

Cousins admittedly forced the issue on offense too much to start the season. This Cousins is much easier to play alongside

"He's playing in a good rhythm, knows when to be aggressive, knows when to make the extra pass, and that's important," forward Jason Thompson said. "Sometimes (when) a guy has it going, he wants to take every shot and force things."

Thompson led the Kings with 19 points and had 10 rebounds. Francisco Garcia had 14 points. Aaron Brooks came off the bench to score 13, including a drive by Kyrie Irving for a layup and a 94-90 lead with 18.2 seconds left.

Winning on the road, even against the Cavaliers (7-26), is a step in the right direction for the Kings, who have blown leads on the road and failed to close out games.

It will be easier if Cousins can keep being the leader in trying to get open teammates the ball.

"Cuz is going to be our focal point, and he's so good down there," Garcia said. "He can pass the ball so well to the open guy, and we're depending a lot on him."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jason Jones



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