If firing a coach and dealing with trade rumors weren’t enough over the past week, there was also this: The Kings hadn’t won a game in a while.
While the chatter outside might not quiet, the Kings did their part on the court to improve the mood in the locker room by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 108-101 Sunday at Sleep Train Arena.
Sacramento overcame a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, their largest comeback of the season.
The victory ended the Kings’ losing streak at five games and was the first under coach Tyrone Corbin, who replaced Michael Malone when he was fired on Dec. 14.
“We’ve taken on a lot as a team (lately),” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “We know the news with Coach and being in the middle of a losing streak (are) hard to deal with. I think we responded well (Sunday), and this is a way for us to move on from that situation and keep on the path that we had planned on this whole season.”
The Kings had planned to improve defensively and try to make the playoffs, but they encountered problems with defense and turnovers during the losing streak.
Sacramento gave up 21 points off 14 turnovers against the Lakers but defended well.
“Honestly, I don’t even really care how we did it as long as we did it,” Cousins said. “We can correct the other stuff later on, but it just feels good to get a win.”
With Malone’s firing and news the Kings are interested in trading for Brooklyn guard Deron Williams, staying focused on the court could be tough.
The Kings can’t quiet trade talk, but they can control their play on the court.
“Outside of the trade rumors, I would say it’s pretty difficult because that’s a tough pill to swallow,” Cousins said of Malone’s firing. “But the trade rumors ... I think at the top they do a great job of communicating with us. That’s why they’re called rumors. I don’t think anybody’s really worried about it; everybody’s coming in locked in and focused on the task at hand.”
After trailing 79-66 with 6:11 left in the third, Sacramento went on a 15-1 run to close the period.
The Kings picked up their defense and held the Lakers to 41 points in the second half.
“They just got more aggressive, defensively” said Lakers coach Byron Scott. “They just took us out of everything.”
The Lakers shot 32.6 percent in the second half, 37.9 percent for the game.
“It lets you know if we do the right things, if we stay focused and we concentrate on the game plan like we did in the second half, good things will happen,” Corbin said.
Cousins led the Kings with 29 points and 14 rebounds. He also had three blocks, two steals and two assists.
Rudy Gay had 24 points and six assists. Ben McLemore had 23 points and eight rebounds.
The defense sparked the transition game Sacramento had been seeking. After scoring fewer than 10 fast-break points in four of the five losses in the streak, the Kings scored 23 points off fast breaks Sunday.
“We couldn’t stop people (during the losing streak), so we really didn’t have a chance to get any fast-break points,” Gay said. “But we played a lot of good defense (Sunday), and that sparked our offense.”
Gay added that the pressure of a losing streak doesn’t vanish with one win, but there’s no need to panic.
“It’s a long season, ” Gay said. “We’re 12-15. We’ve got a long time to get back. So we have to be very, very aware of what can happen if we (become) lax out there.”
Nick Young led the Lakers (8-19), who have lost three straight, with 26 points. Kobe Bryant had 25 points but missed 22 of his 30 shots and had nine turnovers.
Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.