By: Malaika Bobino
Sacramento, CA – The drama that has plagued this team has come to an end. The Kings suspended DeMarcus Cousin indefinitely which means there is no time table as to when he’ll return. In the meantime, Sacramento must move on without one of the key pieces to their puzzle.
Surprisingly, the Kings wasted no time on the loss of their teammate. They defeated the Portland Trailblazers 108-96 and snapped their five-game winning streak. Many wondered how this team would recover without Cousins who led the team in scoring and rebounding.
“We were missing DeMarcus, so we had a different lineup out there and it worked tonight,” said James Johnson. “We were a small team tonight so we ran fast and played unselfish.”
Sacramento’s coach Keith Smart left no stone unturned in matching up his players without the controversial Cousins and starting guard Tyreke Evans who is still out with a sore knee. Smart moved Jason Thompson to center, started both Marcus Thornton (in place of Evans) and Johnson at power forward.
More than five players were in double digits. Thornton led all scores with a team-high 22 points, Travis Outlaw added 15 points off the bench and John Salmons had a solid performance with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“I thought they played very well without their key players,” Trailblazers coach Terry Stotts said. “In this league when players are missing for whatever reasons the other players take that as an opportunity to play well.”
“I think it’s one of those games where the other team played better than us,” said rookie guard Damian Lillard. “There probably were some defensive mistakes we made that we shouldn’t have and they took advantage of it.”
Trailing by 10 in the second quarter Sacramento went on a 15-0 run to take a 36-31 lead. Outlaw scored 13 points in the quarter and went 5-for 6 shooting, leaving his former team scrambling on defense. The turning point in the game was when Aaron Brooks buried a 27-footer to give the Kings a nine point lead going into the fourth quarter.
“The number one thing was 31 assists, that tells the story right there,” Keith said on his teams effort. “Obviously making shots is the key but 31 assists for this group after everything we’ve been through over the last couple of days, for them to pull together …”
Tonight was the first game DeMarcus missed after begin suspended. There is no word on how long he will be out but the decision was made by the coaching staff and management. General Manager Geoff Petrie released a statement this past Saturday stating the third year big man had been suspended for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.
Along with a string of suspensions this season, the final straw came when Cousins got into a verbal altercation with head coach Smart during halftime of Sacramento’s loss to the Clippers on Friday night. DeMarcus was told to remain in the locker room for the entire second half and told not to return for practice or games.