David Zalubowski / The Associated Press

Kings guard Isaiah Thomas backs down Nuggets guard Aaron Brooks in the fourth quarter Sunday night in Denver.

Big third quarter keys win for Kings

Published: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 - 11:07 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 - 5:20 am

The third quarter featured a series of plays that had Kings jumping off the bench cheering on their teammates.

Many of them had nothing to do with the 39 points Sacramento scored in the period.

It was guard Ben McLemore going up to block Denver center Timofey Mozgov’s shot at the rim. Or Quincy Acy going up to stuff Quincy Miller with two hands at the rim.

Then there were center DeMarcus Cousins’ three blocked shots.

The defense in the third helped erase a poor showing defensively in the first half and allowed the Kings to coast to a 109-95 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at Pepsi Center.

It was the Kings’ second consecutive win and the second time this season Sacramento has swept back-to-back games. It was also the first time the Kings have won consecutive road games. The Kings won Feb. 12 at New York.

The win ended a nine-game losing streak in Denver. The Kings last won there April 5, 2008. It was also the first time the Kings won the second of back-to-back games in Denver since Dec. 22, 2006.

The Nuggets lost for the first time this season when hosting an opponent in the second of back-to-back games. Denver is now 5-1 in that situation.

The Kings outscored the Nuggets 39-18 in the third and held Denver to 28.6 percent shooting while forcing eight turnovers. The eight turnovers matched the most the Kings have forced in a quarter this season.

The six blocked shots in the period were the most in a quarter this season. The Kings matched their season high with 10 blocks. The Kings also had 10 blocks Jan. 21 in New Orleans.

“We were active, we were making people feel us, we were protecting our basket,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “Not just conceding layups, which we’ve done at times this year.”

The Kings also had 12 steals, with Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore and Isaiah Thomas each recording three. McLemore’s steals were a season high.

Offensively, Thomas, Gay and Cousins carried the Kings, combining for 92 points.

Thomas had 33 points and six assists. Gay had 32 points and 11 rebounds. Cousins had 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and tied his career high with five blocks.

Thomas said the key to the third quarter was not complicated.

“We just got stops and we got out and ran and got easy buckets,” Thomas said. “As simple as it sounds, that’s what it was. We played defense, we helped each other and we got out and ran.”

Cousins’ activity on defense was a sign his hip is feeling better. Cousins struggled Saturday against Boston in his first game back since straining his left hip flexor in New York.

Cousins said the blocks in the third energized the Kings.

“I think it was a momentum boost for the team,” Cousins said. “We held them to (37.5 percent shooting), that’s a great defensive effort.”

The Kings, however, still need to clean up their turnovers.

Sacramento had 21, which led to 21 points for the Nuggets. The mistakes didn’t hurt the Kings because the Nuggets had 19 turnovers, which led to 21 points for the Kings.

Sacramento needed the big third quarter because it had no answer for Denver reserve Evan Fournier in the first half. Fournier scored 20 of his career-high 27 points in the half.

But the Nuggets shot 13 for 43 (30.2 percent) in the second half and were outscored 61-43. Denver (25-30) has lost seven of eight.

Kings vs. Nuggets highlights

Read more articles by Jason Jones

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