SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Rudy Gay walked off the court to a standing ovation in the final minutes, receiving high-fives from coaches and teammates on the bench — and a hug from DeMarcus Cousins.
Nobody might be more thankful than Sacramento's center for the added help.
Gay scored 26 points in his first home game since coming over in a trade from Toronto, leading the Kings past the Houston Rockets 106-91 on Sunday night.
"It makes the game so much easier," Cousins said. "It's not such a heavy load on me and Isaiah (Thomas) every night, just having another go-to guy."
With Gay leading the way, Sacramento outshot Houston 48.1 to 41.3 percent and finally showed some signs of defense.
Cousins collected 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Thomas had 19 points and eight assists to help Sacramento hold on to the lead for most of the final 35 minutes.
Gay added five rebounds and four assists. He finished 10 for 20 from the field in a dazzling home debut for the Kings, who had lost eight of their past 10 games.
"The basketball is going to be in my hands a lot," Gay said, "so I'm just trying to keep everybody comfortable and keep everybody happy."
James Harden sprained his left ankle early in the third quarter and finished with 25 points, and Dwight Howard had 13 points and 10 rebounds while battling foul trouble in a disappointing end to Houston's quick three-game road trip. The Rockets lost at Portland on Thursday and won at Golden State on Friday.
Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson filled in for Kevin McHale all three games following the death of McHale's mother. Guard Jeremy Lin sat out with back spasms and forward Terrence Jones had two points and five assists while playing just 15 minutes because of flu-like symptoms.
It's unclear whether Harden or Lin will be able to play Wednesday against Chicago in Houston.
"It's very, very painful," Harden said of his ankle. "I am trying to get through this, stay positive and focus on getting back."
Sacramento's newest attraction seized the opportunity.
Gay, who came over in a seven-player trade from Toronto last week, had 24 points in the loss at Phoenix on Friday. He started quickly in his first game at home for Sacramento, scoring 14 points in the first quarter, including a series of scintillating drives and dunks that brought most of the announced crowd of 15,606 roaring to their feet.