TORONTO (AP) — Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart called DeMarcus Cousins “the guy who makes it all work for us.”
Friday night’s performance was the perfect example of that.
Cousins scored a season-high 31 points and matched his career high with 20 rebounds, John Salmons scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Kings topped the Toronto Raptors 105-96.
“He had the right energy to start the game, he had the right mindset of not trying to score 50 but trying to let his teammates play,” Smart said of Cousins. “He’s in a good spot as a basketball player right now and he’s only going to get better.”
Salmons said Cousins is helping the Kings win by trusting his teammates and giving up the ball when he gets double-teamed.
“He’s involved and he’s understanding the game better,” Salmons said. “He’s understanding what it takes to win. He’s trying to do to things for this team to move up in the standings and make a playoff push.”
Jason Thompson scored 14 points and Isaiah Thomas had 11 as the Kings won their second straight road game. They’d gone 1-13 away from home before winning at Cleveland on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t happen that often so we’re going to enjoy this,” Smart said.
This is Sacramento’s longest road winning streak since a three-game run from March 23-27, 2011. The Kings have won six of eight overall following their second five-game losing streak of the season.
“We’re playing some good team basketball,” Cousins said. “It doesn’t matter who’s having a good night, let’s feed them the rock. That’s been our mindset and it’s been working.”
Kyle Lowry scored 24 points and Ed Davis had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who came in having won eight of nine and a season-best five straight at home.
“We did not have an answer for DeMarcus Cousins inside,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “We did not play with any zip. We were flat.”
Alan Anderson scored 20 points, DeMar DeRozan had 14 and Jose Calderon added 13 for the Raptors, who also lost 107-100 at Sacramento on Dec. 5.
“It’s definitely tough,” DeRozan said. “Cousins is someone to reckon with in the post.”
He sure is. The hulking center proved a problem for every defender Toronto tried against him, especially Amir Johnson, who fouled out without taking a single shot.
This was the third 20-rebound game of Cousins’ career, but Smart said he expects plenty more.
“Twenty rebounds for him can be an every fifth game event,” Smart said. “He’s always going to be in the top area of rebounding because he does a great job of going after the basketball.”
Cousins had 19 rebounds the last time the Kings visited the Raptors, snapping a seven-game slide north of the border with a 98-91 victory last Jan. 11.
“I hate coming through the airport but I enjoy coming to Toronto,” Cousins said with a laugh.
The Raptors’ fate was sealed in a dreadful third quarter that saw them make just three of 21 field goal attempts and commit six turnovers as Sacramento turned a one-point halftime lead into a 19-point advantage heading into the fourth.
“I don’t know what happened to them, but I know we played a very good third quarter,” Smart said.
The Raptors went 11 for 39 from the field in the second half after going 19 for 40 in the first.
Cousins had nine points, four rebounds and three assists in the first quarter as Sacramento led 23-22. Anderson scored seven points as Toronto replied with a 17-5 spurt to start the second, taking a 39-31 lead with 7:02 to play. But Sacramento closed the half on an 8-0 run to lead 54-53 at intermission.
The Kings surged ahead with a 12-0 run to open the second half as the Raptors fell apart. Toronto was outscored 28-10 overall as the Kings used 10 points from Cousins to take an 82-63 lead into the final quarter.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.)