Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/24/12
SACRAMENTO -- No one wanted to speak directly to the obvious. Perhaps it was just a mere coincidence that the Sacramento Kings had a season-high 31 assists and made a season-high 45 field goals Sunday, one night after the organization suspended center DeMarcus Cousins for unprofessional behavior. The Kings used a power-packed second quarter to lead them to a 108-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers before an announced crowd of 13,244 at Sleep Train Arena. Kings coach Keith Smart had a huge smile after the contest. "The number one thing was 31 assists," he said. "That tells the story right there. Not just making the shots, but 31 assists for this group after everything we've been through over the (past) couple of days. For them to pull together like that was beautiful." Smart admitted he was searching for units that would play cohesively with the team missing Cousins, Tyreke Evans (sore left knee) and Francisco Garcia (sore left knee). The coach came up with a starting lineup of James Johnson, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Marcus Thornton and Aaron Brooks. Johnson said he found out he was starting at the morning shoot-around. "Jason had an upset stomach and couldn't go," said Johnson, who scored 10 points. "But like the true soldier he is, he came out and did work for us (in the game), and he came up big for us in the first quarter when we needed him. "The big thing for us was nobody was scared to shoot the ball." Thornton never is scared to shoot. He finished 10-for-18 from the floor for a team-high 22 points. "We were just out there shooting and playing the game," Thornton said. "That's all we can do." Thornton did do a little more. He spoke with Cousins on Sunday. "I just wanted to see how he was doing," Thornton said. "We really didn't talk that much about basketball. He is my teammate, but he's my friend." That seemed to be the overwhelming feeling among the Kings -- players and coaches alike. Smart said he spoke to Cousins on Sunday after allowing tempers to cool following his blowup with the center at halftime Friday night during the Kings' 97-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. "We'll talk again," Smart said, referring to himself, Cousins and the team's front office. "We have a couple of days before we play Portland (again on Wednesday), so we'll see how things go." Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Kings just made too many shots. "Sometimes when a team has guys out, it gives other guys opportunities and they take advantage of it," Stotts said. "That happened (Sunday)." The Kings shot a season-high 55.6 percent from the field, hitting 45 of 81 attempts. Former Trail Blazers forward Travis Outlaw provided the key spark by scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter. On the night, Outlaw made six of seven field-goal attempts. He scored his 15 points in just 16 minutes. The Kings (9-18) won for the second time in three games by shooting 13-for-19 (68.4 percent) in the third quarter. Overall in the second half, the Kings shot 24-for-34 (70.6 percent) from the field. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds for Portland (13-13). Damian Lillard added 15 points and seven assists, while J.J. Hickson had 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Kings' reserves outscored their counterparts 43-26. The bench players helped Sacramento take control with a 12-0 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters. NOTES: The teams conclude their home-and-home set Wednesday in Oregon, which also will be the final game of the season series. Each team won on the road in the two meetings prior to Sunday. ... Kings guard Jimmer Fredette leads the NBA in free-throw shooting at 94.1 percent. Fredette had a streak of 33 consecutive makes end Friday night in a loss at the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Smart chose to keep his starting lineup a secret before the game. "There is no need to divulge that until I have to 30 minutes before the game," he said. ... Thompson started at center for the Kings across from Hickson. Both players began the 2011-12 season playing power forward for Sacramento. ... Salmons opted not to compare suspended Cousins to any player he's previously played with. Salmons said of Cousins, "He's young (22), and I don't think we've given up on him from management on down. He's got a lot of potential and a chance to be a good player in this league."
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