PHILADELPHIA (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Darren Collison scored 21 of his 25 points after halftime to lead the Sacramento Kings to a 114-110 comeback victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Rajon Rondo added 14 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists for the Kings, who snapped a four-game losing streak overall and six-game skid on the road while winning for just the second time in their last 10. It also allowed Sacramento to enter the break on a positive note following a tumultuous week that included rumors of the impending dismissal of coach George Karl.
Karl, however, was given a vote of confidence by general manager Vlade Divac on Tuesday. Losing to the 76ers, who dropped to 8-45, certainly wouldn’t have quieted Karl’s critics though.
Rookie Jahlil Okafor tied his career high with 26 points to go with 10 rebounds, and Robert Covington scored a career-high 29 points for the 76ers, who played without top big man Nerlens Noel.
Noel, who is averaging 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, was a late scratch due to right knee tendinitis.
The 76ers controlled the game throughout and led by 12 entering the fourth quarter. Sacramento slowly chipped away at the lead and finally went in front on Cousins’ 19-footer with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left that made it 106-105. The Kings were up 112-109 and had a chance to put the game away, but Cousins turned the ball over with 15.9 seconds remaining.
Rather than let Philadelphia try a tying 3-pointer, the Kings fouled Ish Smith and the 76ers guard made one of two. Collison then iced the game by making a pair of foul shots with 8.1 seconds left.
Philadelphia’s lead grew to as many as 17 points in the third quarter when Nik Stauskas hit a 3-pointer to make it 73-56 with 7:32 left in the period. The Kings scored 11 of the next 13 over 3:05 to get within 75-67. However, Cousins was forced to the bench on Philadelphia’s ensuing possession when he picked up his fourth foul and the 76ers took advantage, stretching their lead to 87-75 entering the fourth quarter.
The Kings played their first game following the team’s backing of Karl. Speculation about Karl’s job reached a peak Monday night when a report surfaced that he would be fired. However, a Tuesday meeting with Divac resulted in Karl staying on board, with Divac saying “we are collectively working through our issues” in a statement.
Divac told The Associated Press before Wednesday’s game that the Kings’ defense must improve. Sacramento entered Wednesday allowing a league-worst 109.1 points per game and have given up 120.8 over a four-game losing streak.
“Defensively, we are not good,” Divac said. “That’s something we have to improve big. It would make a difference. Our offense is stable, but defensively we go on and off.”
Karl took the previous 48 hours in stride, saying speculation about his job wouldn’t add extra pressure.
“My world is basketball, the gym and players,” he said. “Your world is interpretation, innuendo, gossip. I’m not into it.”
Philadelphia led by as many as 16 in the opening half.
Rudy Gay’s emphatic dunk with 5.9 seconds left before intermission pulled Sacramento within 60-48 before Stauskas drained a 31-footer as time expired to put the 76ers up by 15 points at the break.
Gay finished with 22 points. Stauskas had 16.
Kings: Gay and Caron Butler went out of their way to give handshakes and hugs to former 76ersgreat Allen Iverson, who made a courtside appearance. ... The Kings improved 5-12 against Philadelphia since 2007-08.
76ers: Noel and Okafor will compete in Rising Stars Challenge this weekend as part of the All-Star Game festivities in Toronto. ... Philadelphia led by as many as 19 points in its 98-92 overtime loss against the Clippers on Monday. ... F Richaun Holmes returned after missing the last three games with an ankle injury. He had eight points.
Kings: Host Denver on Feb. 19.
76ers: At New Orleans on Feb. 19.