SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson put the perfect capper on a celebratory opening to a new era of basketball in Sacramento.
Cousins had 30 points and 14 rebounds and Thompson scored the game-winner on a putback in the final minute to give Sacramento fans plenty more to cheer about than just having a team as the Kings won their season-opener 90-88 over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
"It's a sense of relief," coach Mike Malone said after winning his debut. "Opening night and there was so much hoopla going into this game, rightfully so for our fans, for our mayor, for our owner. It was a great way to celebrate. To win on this night was great for the fans most importantly and for our players."
Greivis Vasquez added 17 points and Isaiah Thomas had 16 off the bench as the Kings snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Nuggets in the first game of the new regime headed by owner Vivek Ranadive and Malone.
"That's the old Kings," Cousins said. "We're not really worried about the past. This is the first game."
Ty Lawson scored 20 points but missed a potential tying shot in the closing seconds for the Nuggets, who started off Brian Shaw's tenure with a loss. Shaw took over for last season's coach of the year George Karl, who was fired after a first-round playoff loss to Golden State despite winning 57 games in the regular season.
"It was a raucous atmosphere but we played through it," Shaw said. "It was a crazy atmosphere tonight."
The Kings are building their franchise around Cousins, giving him a $62 million, four-year contract extension before the season and giving him a tutor in new minority owner Shaquille O'Neal, who sat court side for the opener.
"He was coaching me through the game a lot," Cousins said. "He sent me a text at halftime. I'm glad he came and supported us. Hopefully we'll see him around more often."
Cousins backed that support up with a strong performance in the opener. Cousins made an emphatic dunk off his own miss to give the Kings an 86-82 with just under 4 minutes left and then drew an offensive foul on Lawson. Thomas followed with a bank shot and the Kings appeared in control.
"He is much more than a one-way player," Malone said of Cousins. "He has to be a guy who defends at a high level for us and I thought he did a decent job of that for us tonight."
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