Last Sunday, the Kings held a players-only meeting. Its the kind of meeting thats praised if wins follow but mocked if losses continue.
Since the gathering, the Kings have won a season-best three consecutive games. So, of course, it was just what the team needed.
Sunday at Sleep Train Arena, the Kings matched the third most lopsided win in franchise history, routing the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-80.
The victory margin equaled a 44-point win over Denver on Dec. 12, 1992, and trailed only a 56-point win over Philadelphia on Jan. 2, 1993 and a 58-point victory over Dallas on Dec. 29, 1992.
The Kings led by 46 points, their biggest advantage of the season, and tallied season highs in points, 3-pointers (15) and blocked shots (eight).
Defensively, the Kings (13-22) held Cleveland to 11 points in the third quarter and 30 points in the second half, both season lows by a Sacramento opponent. The 80 points were also a season low, bettering the 83 the Kings gave up against Orlando on Friday.
In the third quarter, the Cavaliers (13-24) made only four shots and shot 20 percent, both season lows for a Kings opponent.
This young team is growing and Im just happy to be a part of it, Rudy Gay said. We can become a really good team. It takes hard work and were working hard, and coach has been great. As long as we keep going on that same path, we should be a good team.
The defensive numbers are what pleased coach Michael Malone. After allowing 32 points in the first quarter, the Kings began to defend better, leading to the dominant second half.
Consistency is a word weve used a lot, Malone said. Its something we havent shown we can (accomplish) most of the season, but in our last three games I think the defense has been consistent, the communication has been consistent, the efforts been there. We had breakdowns without a doubt, but our breakdowns are happening less often at the moment, and thats a step in the right direction.
That meant, for the second consecutive game, the Kings key players were on the bench at the finish. Isaiah Thomas was the only starter to play in the fourth quarter.
You feel weird sitting out the whole fourth quarter, DeMarcus Cousins said. Unless Id fouled out, I dont think Ive ever been in that situation, so it felt good.
Cousins said the players-only meeting was time well spent. Not only did the Kings beat Portland, one of the top teams in the Western Conference, they looked more focused against struggling Orlando and Cleveland. Games against teams with losing records frequently have resulted in lackluster efforts by the Kings.
Cousins said focus is the key as the Kings being a six-game trip Tuesday at Eastern Conference-leading Indiana.
Weve still got a long way to go, Cousins said. Just try to take the momentum from these games and carry it to the next. And at the same time staying focused on the goal, and thats being a consistent team defensively, offensively and playing together.
Thomas said the Kings have begun to play more team-oriented ball over the past week.
If you play for somebody, youll do whatever it takes to help that guy be the best basketball player he can be, Thomas said. If youre playing with each other, youre just out there. Hes your teammate, but youre just out there. These last three games, I think, weve been playing for each other and trying to do whatever it takes to help the next man be the best he can be.
Thomas led the Kings with 26 points and six assists. Cousins had 16 points and 11 rebounds, his 10th consecutive double double. Its the longest double-double streak by a King since Chris Webber had 10 during the 2002-03 season.
Gay scored 20 points, and Jason Thompson had a season-high 16 rebounds.