SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — After three straight road losses to open the season, the Sacramento Kings are back home, where a sign in their locker room reminds them not to panic: "Relax, it's only November."
November might turn out to be a pleasant month after all for the young Kings, who demonstrated no panic Wednesday night in winning their second straight tight game.
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds to help Sacramento hold off the winless Detroit Pistons for a 105-103 victory.
A year ago, in a shortened NBA season, the Kings opened 4-10 and never got themselves headed in a positive direction. That cost coach Paul Westphal his job early in the season and the Kings finished 22-44 overall after Keith Smart took over.
Smart has posted positive reminders throughout the locker room, and the "relax" sign resonates with second-year point guard Isaiah Thomas.
"When we started 0-3 it was a reminder for us to relax," said Thomas, who was one of seven Kings in double figures with 15 points. "It's relax if you're playing, relax if you're not. It refers to everything we're doing as a team."
The Kings did enough right in the fourth quarter to hold off the Pistons, who are in the midst of a six-game road trip and were desperate for a win. Despite being outscored 32-26 in the fourth, the Kings made some big plays and big shots when they were needed.
Smart went with a small three-guard set for part of the fourth quarter and it worked out well. Former BYU star Jimmer Fredette was especially effective, scoring seven of his 12 points in the fourth. He went 4 of 4 on free throws, with the last two giving the Kings a four-point lead.
"Jimmer stays ready all the time, so we try to find the right situation for him," Smart said. "He came in and made some big plays for us tonight."
Overlooked somewhat in the fourth quarter was the effectiveness of Cousins, who was playing despite a sore shoulder after a hard flagrant foul in the second by Jason Maxiell. In a battle all game with Pistons center Greg Monroe, Cousins had eight points and four rebounds in the final period.
Cousins was much more pleased with the victory than his second straight double-double.
"It's a new year, a new team — we're not concerned about last year," he said. "It feels good to have some momentum. We're trying to change things around in Sacramento."
The Kings took the lead for good early in the second quarter. Strong bench play and the inside game of Cousins proved pivotal in the fourth when the lead was cut to one basket several times.
Monroe had his first triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists for the Pistons, who fell to 0-5. Brandon Knight made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points. Will Bynum had 14 points, and Kyle Singler added 12.
"I've been playing against him (Monroe) for a long time," Cousins said. "Our games are very similar. We're not athletic or flashy, but we get the job done. He's an awesome player and doesn't get the credit he deserves."
Knight took a pass from Monroe and made a 3-pointer, pulling Detroit to 102-100 with 23.3 seconds left. It was the 10th assist for Monroe, who became the first NBA player this season to record a triple-double.