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Thomas, Evans both shine as Kings top Suns

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Associated Press
3/9/2013 12:57:40 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Thanks to one of their better offensive efforts of the season, the Sacramento Kings were able to escape the Western Conference basement.

Isaiah Thomas scored 27 points and Tyreke Evans had 25 for the inconsistent Kings, who defeated the Phoenix Suns 121-112 on Friday night.

It was a rare win for the Kings (22-42), who had dropped nine of their previous 11 games. Phoenix and New Orleans, both 21-41, now share the worst record in the West.

"We did a good job of getting the ball to the open spots and finding the open man," said Evans, who made four 3-pointers and nine of 12 shots overall despite a tender right elbow. "We were all on fire tonight. I had a lot of confidence in my shot tonight."

It appeared that many of the Kings had confidence. Four players had 20 points or more. They shot 55 per cent, connected on 13 of 27 3s, made 18 of 21 free throws, recorded 30 assists, and scored 30 points or more in three of the four quarters.

The Kings, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau, had four players with 20 or more points for the first time since Jan. 16, 2009, against Milwaukee.

"If we could do that every night consistently, we would be very dangerous," said Marcus Thornton, who also made four 3-pointers and scored 23 points in 23 minutes. "Guys have been finding me when I'm open. We're playing unselfish right now. It's fun."

The Kings converted six straight free throws in the final 16 seconds to secure the victory and improve their home record to 16-14.

DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for Sacramento and Jason Thompson added 12 points.

Michael Beasley scored 24 points for the Suns, who had beaten the Kings in five straight, including twice this season. Wesley Johnson had 19 points and Goran Dragic had 17 points and 16 assists. Luis Scola had 14 points and nine rebounds.

"Our offence was good, but our defence, our rotations, were too late," Dragic said. "They had a lot of open shots and they made them."

After two very subpar games, Cousins came out strong in the opening quarter when he scored the Kings' first eight points. He made all three shots in the first quarter and had 10 rebounds and five assists.

It helped that the Suns were playing without regular post players, injured Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal, who missed the game for personal reasons.

"With Gortat and Jermaine out, those two guys are our anchors and they really support us down low defensively," Suns coach Lindsey Hunter said. "But we can't talk about what we don't have. One of our favourite phrases is no excuses and the next guy has to step up. So we'll have to go back to the drawing board."

Down by 11 points, the Suns scored seven straight with Johnson's two free throws cutting the lead to 116-112 with 46 seconds left. Evans converted two free throws to give the Kings a six-point cushion.

In his previous two games, both losses, Cousins shot a combined 3 of 23 and had 13 points. He also appeared disinterested, and Kings coach Keith Smart didn't play him the majority of the fourth quarter in both games.

"We were scoring very well in the paint, we had an advantage there," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We had a big size advantage, that was a big plus."

Trailing by 11, the Suns ran off nine unanswered points to pull within 98-95. But Thornton followed with a 3-pointer and added two jumpers, giving the Kings a 109-100 lead with 4:34 remaining.

"Every team in the NBA can beat you at any time," Smart said. "This team (Phoenix) missed a lot of pieces. These are dangerous types of teams because they can beat you regardless of what their record is, especially when they have players our and other guys get a chance to step up and play."

Gortat had started 138 straight games. He suffered a mid-foot sprain to his right foot in Wednesday's lopsided 98-71 home loss to Toronto and maybe lost for the season.

After going scoreless in the third quarter, Cousins tossed into a left-handed hook shot over the Suns' Hamed Haddadi. The basket at the 8:52 mark gave Sacramento a 96-85 lead.

Sacramento is trying to keep the team in the city and not be sold to a Seattle group. Commissioner David Stern commented on the issue Friday night before the Houston-Golden State game in Oakland.

Stern noted that the Kings' offer to keep the team in Sacramento was substantially lower than the $341 million being offered by Seattle hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and needed to be increased.

Stern said he expected the offer to buy the Kings from the Maloof family ownership by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle would increase in the coming weeks.

Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, who attended the game, said he remains confident an appropriate offer will be made to keep the team in Sacramento. Johnson and city officials are also working on a downtown arena plan. The NBA board of governors is expected to vote in mid-April on the fate of the Kings.

Thomas, who was not happy about playing only the final three minutes in the fourth quarter, continued his torrid shooting in the third quarter, scoring 11 points and helping the Kings take an 89-82 lead into the fourth. His 3-pointer gave Sacramento a 76-69, its biggest margin in the quarter.

Cousins had a huge first half with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Kings, who led 59-57. Thomas made all three 3-point attempts and scored 13 points. Scola, Johnson and Dragic all had 10 points for Phoenix.

Notes: Thompson had one rebound and needs six more to tie Peja Stojakovic (2,581) for seventh place for most rebounds in the Sacramento era. ... O'Neal who left the team to be with his 13-year-old daughter, who is undergoing surgery to repair a leaking heart valve. ... Hunter won his debut as interim Suns head coach in a game Jan. 20 at Sacramento. His record is 8-13. ... Sacramento shot 54 per cent in the first half. ... Hall of Famer Pete Carril, a former Kings assistant coach, sat near the Kings bench for a second straight game.

Isaiah Thomas (Photo: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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