SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings have put together an impressive four-game winning streak by doing the little things needed to pull out victories.
Faster starts, an uptick in fourth-quarter defense and a few key shots on the offensive end. Small steps for a team that's struggled most of the season, for sure, but a definite move in the right direction as far as Sacramento's big man is concerned.
Cousins made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 20.9 seconds remaining and added a clutch free throw moments later, lifting the Kings to a 102-100 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
"Guys are really starting to buy in," Cousins said. "We're starting to realize what's going to win games for us and it's not who can score the most points. It's us playing defense, us getting stops in a row. Guys are starting to buy in and we're on the right path."
After Ersan Ilyasova drove around Rudy Gay for a layup that put the 76ers ahead 97-96, Cousins made his second 3 of the game to put Sacramento ahead. Garrett Temple, who had put the Kings up 96-94 with his own key 3-pointer with 58.7 seconds left, followed with two free throws.
Sergio Rodriguez's 3-pointer pulled Philadelphia within 101-100 before Cousins made the second of two free throws. Sacramento's 6-foot-11 center then sealed the win by blocking Joel Embiid's 3-pointer. Embiid got the ball back but shot an airball at the buzzer.
"He's blocking shots and taking charges," Cousins' teammate Ty Lawson said. "He's the leader of this team and those are the things you have to do, especially when you're trying to get to the playoffs."
Cousins finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists while helping the Kings extend their winning streak to a season-high four games. Rudy Gay added 17 points and nine rebounds in his return to Sacramento's lineup following a two-week absence.
Embiid had 25 points and eight rebounds while Rodriguez scored 18 for the 76ers.
"I thought I did a pretty good job on (Cousins) but he scored when it mattered," Embiid said.
This was the first game between the two teams after their Nov. 30 game was postponed due to unsafe conditions on the court at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Dario Saric scored 12 of the final 14 points for the 76ers in the third quarter, including a pair of 3s, to help Philadelphia go up 77-70.
Sacramento answered with a 13-0 run early in the fourth quarter but had trouble shaking the 76ers in a game matching two struggling teams.
HENDERSON'S HIP ISSUE
76ers starter Gerald Henderson did not play over the final 8 ½ minutes left because of an ongoing hip issue. Henderson was slow getting down the court when Philadelphia coach Brett Brown noticed and ran nearly to midcourt to call a timeout. "He pulled himself out," Brown said. "He couldn't go in. He has a problem that we will deal with, his hip, but he's been gutsing through a lot."
COUSINS LIKES EMBIID'S GAME
Even though Embiid's playing time continues to be limited as he works his way back into shape after missing two seasons with foot injuries, Cousins came away impressed with what he saw from the 76ers rookie after the two spent most of the night defending each other.
"That kid is special, man," Cousins said. "All jokes aside, I really think he's a good player. This is my first time ever interacting with Embiid and also feeling how physical he is as well. His talent is through the roof. Once he gets a better understanding of the game, it's going to be scary."
76ers: Philadelphia trailed the entire first half and didn't take its first lead until Gerald Henderson's jumper midway through the third quarter. .. Embiid, Saric and Ilyasova combined for 22 of Philadelphia's 30 points in the third quarter. ... Ilyasova has scored in double figures in all but four games since being acquired in a trade from Oklahoma City in early November.
Kings: With Gay back in the lineup after sitting out two weeks with a hip injury, Aaron Afflalo was a healthy scratch before the game. . Willie Cauley-Stein started the second half in place of Kostos Koufos when coach Dave Joerger went with a more athletic lineup.
76ers: Continue their four-game road trip against the Jazz on Thursday. Utah won the first game against Philadelphia this season 109-84 on Nov. 7.
Kings: Travel to Portand on Wednesday to face the Trail Blazers for the final time this season. The home team has won in each of the previous two games between the teams this season.
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