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Cousins, Gay and Thomas lead Kings past Nuggets

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted Feb. 23, 2014 23:11

The Denver Nuggets had a dynamic duo in Evan Fournier and Randy Foye.

It was trumped by Sacramento’s tremendous trio of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas.

Cousins, Gay and Thomas accounted for 92 points Sunday night and the Kings used a monster third quarter to pull away for a 109-95 victory over the Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

“Ultimately, they had three guys that we couldn’t stop,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said.

Cousins, Gay and Thomas outscored the Nuggets 35-18 in the third quarter to help Sacramento turn a four-point halftime deficit into a 17-point lead heading into the fourth. The Kings never let Denver get closer than 10 as they snapped a nine-game losing streak at Pepsi Center.

Sacramento held the Nuggets to .302 shooting in the second half and became the first visitor this season to win in Denver while playing the second of back-to-back games.

“To start the third quarter, our starting group played terrific defense,” Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. “To come in here on a back-to-back, this isn’t an easy place to win. It has only happened nine times in the last five years and they were 5-0 this season in back-to-back games like this.”

Coming off a 28-point loss to Chicago on Friday, the Nuggets (25-30) were hoping to bounce back against the Kings, who entered the night with seven road wins.

Shaw wanted his team to show some fight, and Denver responded with a better effort, particularly in the first half. Behind Fournier’s hot shooting, the Nuggets led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter but couldn’t sustain the pace after Sacramento closed to within four at the break.

Fournier scored 20 of his career-high 27 points in the first half, while Foye scored 22 of his 27 in the second half.

“It’s tough, man,” Foye said. “There’s really no excuses. We basically controlled the whole first half. To come out and give up 39 points in the third quarter is unacceptable. It’s tough, but we have to stay together, keep fighting and keep believing.

“Everybody goes through times like this during the season, but it shows character with who gives in and who keeps fighting. I think it’s important for us to keep fighting, keep pushing and just understand that if you keep the right attitude and you stay together, things will turn around.”

The Nuggets have lost seven of their last eight games but still have five of the next six at home, starting with Tuesday’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

While not satisfied with the latest result, Shaw was encouraged to see better energy from his team, compared to two nights earlier in Chicago.

“I’ve always said that I can live with us giving the effort and the energy, playing hard and competing,” he said. “If we lose, I can live with that. Tonight’s game, in terms of effort, was different than the last game we played against Chicago, so I can live with that. It was a tough night. We played three decent quarters, but one really terrible quarter is what did us in.”


NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME

Evan Fournier

Points 27 8-11 FG, 7-8 FT
Rebounds 4, 0 OFF 4 DEF
Assists 5
Steals 2
Blocks 1
GAME LEADERS
Points Isaiah Thomas 33
Rebounds Rudy Gay 11
Assists Aaron Brooks 8
Steals Four with 3
Blocks DeMarcus Cousins 5
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets guard Randy Foye on staying together through adversity

"Everybody goes through times like this during the season, but it shows character with who gives in and who keeps fighting. I think it’s important for us to keep fighting, keep pushing and just understand that if you keep the right attitude and you stay together, things will turn around."

KEY MOMENT

Kings break away in the third quarter

The Nuggets led by four at halftime and were up seven before the Kings went on a 21-2 run over a 4:54 span of the third quarter to seize control. Denver could never get closer than 10 in the fourth.

VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw

On the Kings having unstoppable players:
“Ultimately, they had three guys that we couldn’t stop. Between Isiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, they had 92 points … That third quarter just really did us in.”

On what he told his team after the game:
“I told them that we have to stay together and keep working. Basically that’s what it came down to.”

On the Nuggets’ effort tonight:
“For us, I’ve always said that I can live with us giving the effort and the energy, playing hard and competing and we lose, I can live with that but tonight’s game in terms of effort was different in the last game we played against Chicago, I felt, so I can live with that tonight. It was a tough night. We played three decent quarters, but one really terrible quarter is what did us in.”

Nuggets guard Randy Foye

On losing control of the game in the third quarter:
“It’s tough man, there’s really no excuses. We basically controlled the whole first half, we did what we wanted to do and then to come out and give up 39 points in the third quarter is unacceptable. It’s tough, but we have to stay together, keep fighting and keep believing—just don’t give in, that’s the main thing. Everybody goes through times like this during the season, but it shows character with who gives in and who keeps fighting and I think it’s important for us to keep fighting, keep pushing and just understand that if you keep the right attitude and you stay together things will turn around.”

On Coach Shaw saying tonight’s loss wasn’t for lack of effort:
“It wasn’t. As one of the leaders, I feel like I have to do a better job of pumping the guys up, talking louder and leading by example—verbally, physically and mentally.”

On allowing DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay to combine for 92 points tonight:
“That’s something that coach has been talking to us about—whoever their go-to guys are, stop them. Make [Ben] McLemore score, [Jason] Thompson score. Make guys uncomfortable, and I think we have done a poor job of taking guys strengths away. Tomorrow is a new day, we have to continue to keep working and we have to stay together.”

Nuggets forward Jan Vesely

On if it’s been difficult jumping into the rotation without much practice with the team:
“It’s tough. I’ve been here for three days and played two games already. It’s tough, but all the guys on the court have been helping me and helping Aaron [Brooks] with all the plays and trying to fit in as seamlessly and quick as possible. I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

On making some high-energy plays and finishing strong tonight:
“I just tried to get on the floor and do what I can do the best—run the floor and play good defense and do the little things. I really enjoyed my time on the floor today.”

On the Kings controlling the second half of play tonight:
“We just didn’t start the second half the right way. It’s tough—I’m new and Aaron [Brooks] is new on the team, so we can’t really run most plays, but that’s not an excuse, we have to start the second half much stronger.”

Kings coach Michael Malone

On what he said to the team during halftime:
“I talked about how offensively we have to stop beating ourselves. Obviously to finish with 21 turnovers is not ideal. But I loved how we came out in the third quarter with a defensive mindset. We got off to a very good start, but then we let Evan Fournier and [the Nuggets] bench come in and dominate us. I think at halftime their bench outscored us 33-4. To start the third quarter, our starting group played terrific defense. To come in here on a back-to-back, this isn’t an easy place to win. It has only happened nine times in the last five years and they were 5-0 this season in back-to-back games like this. So for our guys to hold two opponents, Boston and Denver, below 40 percent and below 100 points is a testament to our defense. Now if we can get our offense to a more efficient level and stop beating ourselves, we could be that much better.”

On their defense tonight:
“We had 10 blocks tonight. Even Ben [McLemore] blocked [Timofey] Mozgov. We were active; we were making them feel us and we were protecting our basket. To be a good defensive team, you have to have a physical mindset. You have to make people feel you out there and I think we have done that lately, especially in that third quarter.”

On closing the gap before halftime:
“Closing the gap before halftime was huge for us. That game was getting away from us in a hurry in that second quarter. As I mentioned, it was largely because of their bench. They came in and just got whatever they wanted. You have to give [Evan] Fournier credit, he played terrific tonight. We cut it down to four points at halftime and that allowed us to come back into the game after halftime with that same momentum. We always stress to close the quarter and I think the way we closed out the half tonight was very important to us being able to win tonight.”

Kings guard Isaiah Thomas:

On overall team performance:
“We played a solid game overall. In the first half I felt like they were getting what they wanted but we ended the second quarter on a run that really helped us going into the third quarter. That third quarter kind of dictated the game which was good for us.”

On the third quarter:
“We were getting stops first and foremost. We got stops and got out and ran. That’s when we are at our best, when we are in transition and being in attack mode. It starts on the defensive end.”

Kings forward Rudy Gay:

On overall performance:
“We got after them defensively. [Evan] Fournier was hurting us in the first half. We got out and we guarded him. They still hit tough shots but for the most part we attacked them, got to the foul line and found the open man.”

On the third quarter:
“It was our aggressiveness plus we didn’t turn the ball over as much that quarter. This team, especially in this elevation, thrives off of turnovers. They can turn a turnover into two points very quickly and we didn’t allow them to do that.”

On back-to-back wins:
“We’re growing. We are taking baby steps and we’re getting there. It’s going to take some time but this is just a little bit of what we can be in the future.”

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Evan Fournier scored a career-high 27 points (8-11 FG, 4-5 3FG) to go with four rebounds and five assists. Over his last four contests, Fournier is averaging 17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting .450 (9-20 3FG) from three-point range.

• Randy Foye posted 27 points (6-11 3FG) and six rebounds tonight. It was Foye’s eighth 20-point game of the year and his second in as many games. Foye is averaging 25.0 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting .516 (16-31 FG) from the field and .611 (11-18 3FG) from long range in his last two games.

• Aaron Brooks tallied nine points, eight assists and two steals in his first start as a Nugget. It was his most assists in a game since he had nine on 4/8/11 at NOH as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

• In two games with Denver, Brooks is averaging 13.0 points and 4.5 assists in 30.0 minutes per game.

• Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 33 points to go with six assists and three steals. It was his seventh career 30-point game and fourth of the season.

• Rudy Gay totaled 32 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes. It was his 34th career 30-point game and his sixth career 30-point/10-rebound game.

• DeMarcus Cousins posted 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five blocks. Cousins is the first player since Tim Duncan in Dec. 2012 and just the 10th player since Jan. 2004 to post 27+ points, 9+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ blocks in a single game.

TEAM

• With tonight’s loss, Denver snaps their nine-game home-winning streak over the Kings. Tonight was just the fourth win for Sacramento in Denver since 2003-04.

• Denver is now 5-1 on the year and 51-9 since 2009-10 when facing opponents on the second game of back-to-back set.

• Isaiah Thomas (33), Rudy Gay (32) and DeMarcus Cousins (27) all scored 27+ points, the first time three opponents have scored 27+ since 12/15/06 at BOS (Tony Allen with 30, Paul Pierce with 30 and Al Jefferson with 28).

• Additionally, Thomas, Gay and Cousins combined for 92 points while Denver scored 95 total points as a team.

• After tonight’s game, DeMarcus Cousins (22.4), Isaiah Thomas (20.6) and Rudy Gay (20.0) all average over 20.0 points per game. The Kings are the only team in the NBA to have three players average 20+ points. • The Nuggets shot 33-of-88 (.375) from the field tonight, the fourth time in the last six games that Denver has shot under 40% from the field. Denver is now 0-10 when shooting under 40% from the field.

• Denver led by four at half but was outscored 39-18 in the third to head into the fourth down 17. The 21-point quarter deficit was the second largest of the season for Denver (they were outscored 39-15 in the first quarter at BOS on 12/6).

• Additionally, Randy Foye shot 4-of-6 (.667) for 14 points in the third quarter while the rest of the team was a combined 2-of-15 (.133) for four points.

• Sacramento won consecutive road games for the first time this season, while also winning the second game of a back-to-back for the first time this year.