Kings-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 25, 2012
The Sacramento Kings didn't need their leading scorer and rebounder to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in their most recent game. DeMarcus Cousins will at least be at the Rose Garden on Wednesday night, but it remains to be seen if he'll make it onto the court. The volatile big man has been reinstated from his suspension in time for the second leg of this home-and-home set, but coach Keith Smart was noncommittal about whether he'll play. Cousins had already been suspended twice by the NBA this season before he exchanged words with Smart at halftime during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. He did not play in the second half, and the Kings (9-18) announced an indefinite suspension for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team." The ban lasted only one game - a 108-96 win Sunday over Portland - and Cousins practiced Monday. It may have helped that he was quickly contrite. "I'm a player that definitely wants to win every night, and I'm an emotional player. That's never going to change," Cousins said over the weekend. "But I shouldn't have responded back. Something was said, and I just should have stayed quiet. Is it a humbling thing? Yeah, I will say that. I mean, I messed up and I apologize to my teammates for responding the way I did and I'll move on from it." Cousins averages 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, but he's shooting just 31.6 percent in his last five games. Smart was cautious in discussing the third-year center's role in the immediate future. "He's been reinstated, but that doesn't mean he's playing right away," the coach told the Kings' official website. "But he's back around the team and came back (Monday) and apologized to the team and to me, as well. We'll just move forward." With Tyreke Evans also out with a sore left knee, Marcus Thornton stepped up Sunday with 22 points to lead six Sacramento players in double figures. Thornton has averaged 17.3 points in his last three games after missing the previous four for personal reasons. "I thought they played very well without their key players," Portland 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." Sacramento now seeks its third straight win over the Trail Blazers (13-13) as these teams finish their four-game season series. The Kings also won 99-80 in Portland on Dec. 8, their only victory in 12 road games this season. They snapped the Blazers' five-game winning streak Sunday as Portland allowed the Kings to post season highs with 55.6 percent shooting and 31 assists. "I just think it was one of those games where the other team played better than us," Blazers rookie Damian Lillard said. "There probably were some defensive mistakes we made that we shouldn't have and they took advantage of it." Portland was without Wesley Matthews due to a hip injury, and his status is unclear for Wednesday's game. Rookie Victor Claver started in his place Sunday and had two points on 1-of-5 shooting. The Blazers should still like their chances at the Rose Garden, where they've won eight of their last nine and five straight since losing to the Kings there.
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