Cousins gives Kings big lift over Jazz

Saturday , March 31, 2012 - 3:38 PM

Jason Jones

SALT LAKE CITY — Being seen as the bad guy is nothing new for Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

And following last week’s game in which Cousins referred to Utah Jazz guard Devin Harris as "the kid" after Harris stared down Cousins in the first quarter in Sacramento, a large part of the sellout crowd at EnergySolutions Arena took pleasure in booing and heckling Cousins on Friday night.

When the game was over, they had even more reason not to like Cousins.

Cousins’ free throw with 3.8 seconds left in the game was the difference in the Kings’ 104-103 win over the Jazz.

Cousins followed up on the solid statistics he’s put up of late with his sixth consecutive 20-point game and fifth consecutive double-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.

Cousins said "Utah was definitely on my back" but relished the treatment.

"I love it," Cousins said. "Especially when I can knock down the game-winning free throw and they just sit there."

Aside from another good outing statistically, Cousins left the game with stitches under his left eyebrow after he said Utah forward Gordon Hayward caught him with an elbow.

That was also insignificant to Cousins. What mattered most was the Kings ending a four-game losing streak that included many mistakes late in games. It was Sacramento’s fifth road win of the season in 27 games. It also ended a four-game losing streak at Utah.

This time, the Kings made the plays they needed down the stretch. Hayward missed a short shot with 1.4 seconds to play, and the Jazz made a putback after the buzzer.

Kings coach Keith Smart said the Kings had lost 11 games this season in the final two minutes or so by making mistakes.

This time, the Kings executed late by finding Cousins.

"We found the right player to make the right pass," Smart said. "... We did the right things at the right time through the course of the game."

Smart said Cousins’ teammates were essential in keeping him in the game amid the hostile environment and physical play by the Jazz (27-25).

"I prefer a guy with fire," Smart said. "We don’t want guys that you’ve got to pump up and put air in them and make them play hard and play with passion. (Cousins) is going to grow out of that and know how to manage."

When the game was over, Cousins saluted some of the fans that stuck around to boo him some more with a smile and by pointing at his stitches.

For a player who is supposed to be too much to handle emotionally, Cousins impressed his teammates.

"He didn’t say too much," said guard Isaiah Thomas. "When he got some and-ones, he looked at the crowd here and there, but his mind was focused on winning, and we need that from him, and he did a great job."

The Kings needed that as they were down two players. Tyreke Evans did not play because of back spasms. It was the third game Evans has missed this season. The Kings (18-33) also won the previous two games Evans missed.

Travis Outlaw started in place of Evans because John Salmons, who didn’t travel to Utah, missed his second consecutive game with a sore right hip. Outlaw’s last start was April 5, 2011, while he was still playing for the New Jersey Nets.

Marcus Thornton had 26 points for the Kings. Thomas added 19 points and six assists.

The Kings blocked a season-high 10 shots.

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