DENVER (AP) — With star center DeMarcus Cousins producing as expected, Darren Collison broke out of his offensive funk and pushed the Sacramento Kings to a big road win.
Cousins had 31 points, Collison scored a season-high 26 to go with seven assists, and the Kings beat the Denver Nuggets 120-113 on Tuesday night.
Sacramento led most of the way to stop a two-game skid and win for the fifth time in seven games.
“This win was crucial,” Collison said. “We had to get that taste out of our mouth. We felt like the last couple of games we got away from who we are as a team.”
Collison was averaging just 8.4 points in the previous five games despite scoring 16 against Memphis on Saturday. He had 17 in the first half against Denver when Sacramento took the lead for good.
“D.C. finally got rolling,” Cousins said. “He was struggling but he came in and played with confidence and had a big game for us.”
The Kings used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to take a 50-36 lead. Denver went nearly seven minutes without a field goal and missed 10 shots before Jusuf Nurkic hit a layup with 2:46 left before halftime.
Denver got within three in the fourth quarter and had chances to trim it to one or tie, but Sacramento kept extending the lead with Cousins on the bench.
The lead was five when he returned, and he helped the Kings push it to 11 with 2:22 left with assists on a 3-pointer by Arron Afflalo and a layup by Garrett Temple.
Denver was stung by former Nuggets players. Afflalo had 19 points off the bench in his return to the lineup, and Kosta Koufos scored 18.
“DeMarcus is an All-NBA player. He’s a load,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But we couldn’t allow Collison to get 26 and Koufos to go 8 of 9 for 18.”
Danilo Gallinari led Denver with 24 points and Nikola Jokic had 18. He and fellow big man Nurkic, who scored 16 off the bench, had trouble containing Cousins all night.
“Their bigs had a tendency to just want to lay on me and try to be physical,” Cousins said. “They think it’s about holding me up and I took advantage of that and used their advantage against them.”
Kings: G Ty Lawson didn’t face his old team due to a sinus fracture sustained in Saturday’s loss to Memphis. He was close to playing but was held out after experiencing blurred vision in warmups. ... F Rudy Gay missed his third straight game with a right hip flexor strain.
Nuggets: F Kenneth Faried missed his second consecutive game with a back injury. Malone said Faried was getting constant treatment for the injury, which flared up after Friday’s loss to Philadelphia. ... The Nuggets hit a season-high 18 3-pointers.
COUSINS FAN CLUB
Cousins has been criticized for his emotional outbursts, but Malone is a big fan of the All-Star center, calling him one of the best in the NBA at his position.
“He’s at the top. You tell me something he can’t do,” Malone said. “I don’t say that just because I coached him for a year and a half and I have a relationship with him. His talent is immense. He’s an emotional player, he’s passionate and he’s a competitor.
“We’ve all seen times when he’s kind of lost his emotions and that’s never good for him or his team. When I coached him, teams would make a concerted effort to start the game to get under his skin. Portland did that and he went for 55 against them, so you have to be careful what you wish for.”
Kings: Host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
Nuggets: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.