SACRAMENTO (AP) — An offensive-minded team through the first half of the season, the Sacramento Kings displayed some defensive tenacity Thursday night.
DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 15 rebounds to help the Kings beat Atlanta 91-88 for their season-high fourth straight win and first against the Hawks in nearly eight years. The Kings, who have taken over eighth place in the Western Division, have won seven of their last 10 games.
With its offense struggling and the team shooting just under 36 percent, the Kings set a season-low for points allowed in defeating Atlanta. The Hawks committed six of their 19 turnovers in the fourth quarter and couldn’t get off a shot in two crucial possessions in the game’s final 13 seconds.
“This was a gritty, blue-collar win,” Kings coach George Karl said. “I’m as happy with this win as I’ve been in a while. Atlanta is probably not a top 4-5 team, but they are pounding on the door.”
Rajon Rondo made a clutch basket in the fourth quarter and had his fifth triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the Kings. He tied Chris Webber for the most triple-doubles in one season during the Sacramento era, which dates back to 1985-86 season.
Sacramento had dropped 15 straight games to Atlanta since a 119-107 victory Feb. 20, 2008. The Kings outhustled the Hawks on boards and held a 56-42 edge. Atlanta missed 25 of 33 3-pointers and shot 41.7 percent overall.
“I’m proud of the fight to get back in the game. It’s tough when you’re on the road and down by 17 points (in the third quarter),” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzeer said. “We just didn’t have enough time to get back over the hump. They had more energy than us, beat us to the 50-50 balls, and beat us on the boards. They kind of outworked us in different points in the game.”
Ben McLemore had 14 points, Omri Casspi had 13 and Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings.
Paul Millsap had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta, which had its three-game win streak snapped. Dennis Schroder scored 14 points and both Al Horford and Kent Bazemore had 11.
After Cauley-Stein made two free throws, Schroder connected on a 3-pointer to tie the score at 88 with 28.5 seconds left. Rondo put the Kings back in the lead with a layup along the baseline after taking a handoff from Cousins.
Following a turnover by Horford, Darren Collison made 1 of 2 free throws to put the Kings up 91-88. The Hawks failed to get a shot off to end the game.
“I think the play broke up. I was supposed to get a catch and drive to the basket,” Horford said of his turnover with 12.9 seconds left. “I may have lost the ball on my footing or something like that. I just don’t know. It was a funky play.”
The Kings went ahead by 17 points in the third quarter and were up by nine heading into the fourth. But the Hawks tied it at 76 with 13-4 run to open the fourth quarter.
McLemore had a four-point play and Casspi followed with a 3 to highlight 18 consecutive points by the Kings, who took a 67-50 lead with just over 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
“I was just thinking how many stops can we get. In the back of my mind I was counting,” Cauley-Stein said. “We have so much talent at the offensive end that we know that part of our game will take care of itself.”
COUSINS PLAYING LIKE AN ALL-STAR
Although he wasn’t voted in as an All-Star starter Thursday for the Western Conference team, Cousins has had a stellar season.
He has scored 30 or more points in eight of the 10 games this month and has led the NBA in scoring for January. Cousins had 36 points and 16 rebounds in Wednesday’s win over Lakers. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds by halftime against Atlanta in recording his ninth straight double-double and his 24th this season in 34 games.
Hawks: Reserve forward Mike Scott has made at least one 3-pointer in 10 of the past 11 games. ... The Hawks didn’t have a player in double figures until Millsap made a short jumper at the 4:16 mark of the third quarter. . Atlanta is now 11-11 on the road. They have two games remaining in a four-game stretch that ends Monday in Denver.
Kings: Sacramento was missing second-leading scorer Rudy Gay, who was out with a heel injury that occurred Wednesday against the Lakers. . A rookie, Cauley-Stein had his first double-double Wednesday against the Lakers and added another one against Atlanta. ... The last time the Kings won four straight games was last March.
Hawks: At Phoenix on Saturday
Kings: Host Indiana on Saturday