SACRAMENTO (AP) — Omri Casspi may be tough to bump from the Sacramento Kings’ starting lineup once rookie Willie Cauley-Stein returns from an injury that may keep him sidelined for another month.
DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and Rudy Gay also scored 23 points as the Kings beat the Utah Jazz 114-106 on Tuesday night.
Casspi has been a valuable reserve this season, one of the reasons why the Kings entered the game with one of the top scoring benches — contributing 41.7 points per game.
Against the Jazz, Casspi was a major factor in a season-high 41 minutes, scoring 19 points and getting 10 rebounds for his second double-double this season.
An active defender with a hustling style of play, Casspi made three 3-pointers and added four assists and a steal to help halt the Kings’ three-game losing streak.
“Everyone in this league wants to start and play 40 minutes,” Casspi said. “I’m happy to start; I love it. But when Willie comes back I’ll be happy to come off the bench again.”
The Kings took a 12-point lead after one quarter and never trailed again in winning for the fifth time in six home games.
Rajon Rondo had another strong game, getting 17 points and 13 assists for the Kings. It was the 13th time this season that Rondo had 10 or more assists. Sacramento shot 55.8 percent.
Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward both had 18 points for Utah, which had beaten the Kings three straight and five of six times. Rodney Hood made five 3-pointers and had 17 points. Coming off a career-high 35 points against Indiana, Derrick Favors had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Jazz were 15 for 36 on 3-pointers, but shot 41 percent in losing for the third time in four games and falling below .500 at 9-10.
“We need to take advantage of these types of games,” Hayward said. “It’s just frustrating because we know how well we can play. We played Golden State really close, and beat a good Indiana team. That’s kind of how the season is going with a little bit of up and down. We’re learning.”
Utah opened the fourth quarter with two baskets, cutting the Sacramento lead to 86-84. Marco Belinelli followed with a 3-pointer, igniting a 7-0 run that put the Kings ahead by nine points.
A 3-pointer by Gay made it 102-90 midway through the fourth.
Casspi scored nine points in the third quarter, making all three shots, including a pair of 3s, to help the Kings take an 86-80 lead into the fourth.
“Casspi has become a good 3-point shooter.,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “I thought we got to him pretty well and didn’t give him open looks, but he was also making plays. ... I think Casspi’s presence stretching the floor and being able to switch makes him a good player. He’s playing great.”
COUSINS BOUNCES BACK
In an overall shooting slump the past three games since coming back from a lower back sprain, Cousins made a 3 in the third quarter after missing the previous 11 of the 12 attempts. Cousins missed both first-half free throws. He made 3 of 9 in Sunday’s loss at Oklahoma City.
Shooting 24.5 percent the last three games, Cousins made 8 of 14 shots against the Jazz. The downside was he fouled out in the game’s final minute and committed five turnovers.
“I think he has a back and an ankle that are sore,” Kings coach George Karl said. “It’s just the process of being a big guy in this league and the way he plays and the way he bangs. I think we have to be careful how we rest him”
Jazz: Utah trailed 36-22 after shooting 36 percent and committing five turnovers in the first quarter. ... The Jazz had a 29-16 rebounding edge in the first half, but only held a 44-40 advantage overall. ... Raul Neto scored the game’ first basket, giving Utah its only lead of the game. ... The Jazz are 1-4 this season without center Rudy Gobert, who is out indefinitely with a left knee strain.
Kings: Gay came out of a timeout with his warmup jersey on and had to be told to take it off. ... Rondo committed six of the Kings 15 turnovers. ... Both Marco Belinelli and Ben McLemore scored 10 points.
Jazz: Host Knicks on Wednesday.
Kings: Host Knicks on Thursday.