SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — It appears the Sacramento Kings can play well without their controversial leading scorer and rebounder, DeMarcus Cousins.
With Cousins not in the arena due for disciplinary reasons, the Kings were an effective, unselfish team.
Now the question is whether they can keep it up.
Marcus Thornton scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half to help the slumping Kings snap Portland's five-game winning streak with a 108-96 victory over the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Cousins, who is the starting center, was suspended indefinitely Saturday for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team. The third-year player and Kings head coach Keith Smart had a confrontation during halftime of Friday's 97-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Smart told Cousins to stay in the locker room and not join the team for the second half.
Sacramento had six players in double figures and recorded a season-high 31 assists against Portland. The Kings pulled away in the second half, shooting nearly 71 percent after the break. Using its eighth different starting lineup this season, Sacramento had a season-best 45 field goals.
"We were missing DeMarcus, so we had a different lineup out there and it worked out tonight," said James Johnson, who made a rare start at power forward while Jason Thompson moved to center. "We were a small team tonight so we ran fast and played very unselfish."
Both Thornton and Salmons helped spark the second-half surge after both were relative non-factors in the opening half. The pair combined for 31 second-half points, helping the Kings pull away.
Thornton made 8 of 11 shots in the second half and finished with four rebounds and four assists. Salmons had 13 of his 15 points in the second half and also added seven rebounds and seven assists.
"John is a very unselfish player and can get his own shots," Thornton said. "He got going in the second half. Me and the first half didn't do so well. But I came on at the right time and got hot in the second half."
Already ahead by nine points, the Kings opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Thornton, to build their lead to 87-71. The Blazers trailed by at least 12 the rest of the way.
"I just think it was one of those games where the other team played better than us," Portland rookie guard Damian Lillard said. "There probably were some defensive mistakes we made that we shouldn't have and they took advantage of it."
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