SACRAMENTO (AP) – A rematch against the defending champion Mavericks showed how far the Sacramento Kings have come from a disastrous game in Dallas in Keith Smart’s sixth game as head coach.
Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton each scored 17 points to help the Kings end a 10-game losing streak against the Mavericks with a 110-97 victory on Friday night.
Rookie Isaiah Thomas added 14 points, including three 3-pointers in the third quarter, for the Kings, who last beat Dallas on Jan. 11, 1999. The worst of those losses came in the first meeting earlier this season when the defending champion Mavericks won 99-60 in Dallas less than two weeks after Smart replaced Paul Westphal as coach.
“‘I told the guys we would not be the same team when we see Dallas again,” Smart said. “I just knew with the work I’d put in with my staff we wouldn’t be the same team. We may lose the game, but we would not be the same team that showed up that time and only scored 23 points in the first half. I just knew we’d be better than that.”
That was clearly the case this game as Sacramento led for the final 45 minutes and topped 50 percent shooting for the second straight game and fourth time this season.
DeMarcus Cousins added 15 points in his return from food poisoning and the Kings had seven players reach double figures in the win.
“We did a good job of playing as a team tonight. Everything was really clicking,” Thomas said. “It was just an overall great team win. If we play together, hit the open guy and make the extra pass, we always play a lot better. That kind of motivates us to play even better defense. We just have to be consistent.”
Jason Terry scored 23 points to lead the Mavericks, who have lost six straight road games for the first time since November 1999. Dallas has lost seven of nine games overall to fall into seventh place in the Western Conference.
“It’s time for change,” Terry said. “You can only look at something for so long and you’re getting the same result so at what point are you going to change or are you going to ride it out. … We’re not a team right now. It shows so until we become a team and play together on both ends of the court, we’re not going to be very good.”
With victories over New Orleans and Dallas, the Kings are off to a strong start to a nine-game homestand that is the longest in franchise history. The homestand started a night after the City Council approved a plan to help finance an estimated $391 million arena to keep the Kings in town for at least another 30 years.
That has given Kings fans something to cheer about for a change for a last-place team that has missed the playoffs for the past five seasons.
Sacramento pulled away in the third quarter against a Dallas team that had lost the previous night in Phoenix. Thomas hit a pair of 3-pointers around a pretty drive from Evans to extend the lead to 78-61 midway through the third. Sacramento led by 16 after three quarters and coasted to the victory.
Francisco Garcia’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth extended the lead to 102-82 and allowed the Kings to become the second team to reach the century mark against Dallas in the past 21 games.
“We got it handed to us in Dallas,” forward Donte Greene said. “We were pretty upset about that. It was good to give it back to them.”
The Kings started off much better than they did in Dallas on Jan. 14, when they were held to a franchise-low 23 points in the first half of the stingiest defensive game in Dallas history.
The Kings took advantage of turnovers to get out on the break early and matched their first-half scoring total from January in just over 6 minutes as Evans’ two free throws gave Sacramento a 23-10 lead with 5:54 left in the quarter.
“It’s the thing that has been biting us lately, the turnovers, and we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had early turnovers and we never got out of that hole.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. )