"We've been fighting," forward Rudy Gay said, "and we're playing
with the confidence that we know we can go out and beat anybody."
The Denver Nuggets won't argue.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins scored 26 of his game-high 30 points
in the first half, and Gay added 29 as Sacramento rolled past Denver
131-109 at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday, continuing the home
team's best start in more than a decade.
Gay needed only 12 shots and Cousins only 14 to put up their totals.
They shot a combined 19-for-26 from the field, helping the Kings
improve to 4-1 for the first time since 2001-02.
That team reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals before
falling to the Shaquille O'Neal- and Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles
Lakers. The 2001-02 club is the only one in the franchise's 30-year
Sacramento history to reach that height.
The Kings, who have their first four-game winning streak since the
end of the 2010-11 campaign, are establishing a bit of an identity.
"It's starting with the hard worth ethic of all the guys, and that
starts with a commitment to defense first," guard Darren Collision
said. "If you do that, you work hard and you make that commitment
that you're going to defend, you're going to win some games."
Guard Randy Foye had 19 points, and forward Wilson Chandler and
guard Ty Lawson each added 13 points for Denver. The Nuggets (1-3)
lost their third consecutive game overall and their third straight
to the Kings over the past two seasons.
"We were too soft on them," Chandler said. "They kind of got where
they wanted to on the floor."
Lawson also finished with nine assists, moving past Nick Van Exel
for fifth all-time on Denver's career assists list. However the
Nuggets led only once (at 3-2, less than a minute into the contest),
trailed 40-19 after a period and were outscored 77-37 in the first
and third quarters.
"I'm not going to play the blame game. I'm going to blame me,"
Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "We've had a slow start in every
preseason game, and now every game in the regular season, so I've
got to look at that. But I'm not going to play the blame game. It's
kind of reactionary on everybody. We're getting hit early, and we're
not hitting back."
Cousins and Gay wielded the heaviest blows for Sacramento, combining
to make 10 of 11 shots in the opening quarter and 15 of 19 in the
first half as the Kings took a 68-54 lead into the break.
Gay is averaging 24.4 points, while Cousins is averaging 24 points
and 10.6 rebounds in the Kings' five games.
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"The defensive part of it is definitely part of what's helping the
offense," Cousins said. "We're playing off the defense, and I think
it's helping build chemistry. The better we are on the defensive
end, the better we'll be on offense."
Cousins had 16 points on just seven shots in the opening period and
dominated down low. Denver had no answer for what Shaw called some
taunts early in the period.
"After one basket, he looked at our bench and just said, 'Are you
guys kidding me?' And nobody took it personal," Shaw said. "If he's
gonna talk to us that way and nobody is going to respond, we deserve
to get our butts kicked."
Kings forward Carl Landry finished with 18 points, forward Omri
Casspi scored 11, and Collision and guard Ben McLemore each scored
10. The Kings shot 55.3 percent from the floor overall.
That more than made up for the fact that Sacramento was outscored
72-54 in the second and fourth quarters.
"I'm happy that we won and happy with all the good things we did,"
Kings coach Michael Malone said, "but I don't want us to create poor
Denver shot 45.1 percent from the field in its best shooting contest
of the season, but it made a combined 13-for-41 (31.7 percent) in
the first and third quarters.
NOTES: The Kings haven't won five consecutive games since January
2007, the first of eight straight seasons in which they failed to
make the playoffs. ... Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari went a combined
1-for-13 in the back-to-back games against the Kings. He is 7-for-31
(22.6 percent) on the season. Gallinari missed last season with a
knee injury that required surgery. ... Sacramento played its
previous two games on the road and next will play four straight
contests away from Sleep Train Arena. ... According to Elias Sports
Bureau, the Kings entered the night with a better mark on the road
(2-0) than home (1-1), with both records at least .500 for the first
time in the team's 30-year Sacramento history.
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