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After winning just 6 games from October to December, the Kings added 6 more wins in January, including 3 last week alone. These weren't just fluke victories either as Sacramento beat the Portland Trailblazers by 15, the defending champion Lakers on the road, and also snapped New Orleans' 10-game winning streak. The only loss came to the Charlotte Bobcats in an ugly game that saw 59 fouls called.
Nobody was more impressive than Rookie Big Man DeMarcus Cousins. Saddled by foul trouble against Portland and Charlotte, he came out with a new energy starting on Friday against the Lakers. He got a little motivation from Lakers Assistant Coach Brian Shaw.
Nate Rose Reports:
"I kind of got mad before the Lakers game," No. 15 said. "I was just warming up and (Lakers’ assistant coach) Brian Shaw came up to me and said, ‘I know who Andrew Bynum is going to eat for dinner tonight.’ It inspired me, and it has carried over."
Cousins would go off for 22 points in the first half alone, and finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 2 assists in the upset victory against the Lakers. He also only committed 1 Personal Foul and 1 turnover, both areas that he's struggled with all year. DeMarcus followed it up the next night with another impressive performance, this time against New Orleans. He had a near triple double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists, as well as drawing a huge charge on Marcus Thornton during crunch time.
The Kings defense has also been coming along well. In each of their games this week, opponents were held to 96 points or below, and the highest percentage any opponent shot was the Charlotte Bobcats at 45.1%. The Kings are now 16th in the league in Defensive Rating, the lowest they've been since the 2005-06 season when they first employed Ron Artest. They finished 12th that year.
Samuel Dalembert has definitely been a big part of the defensive improvement. Against Portland he helped hold LaMarcus Aldridge (who played a game-high 42 minutes and had just been named Western Conference Player of the Week) to only 9 points on 4-14 shooting. Surprisingly though, it was Dalembert's offense that helped the Kings win the other two games. He scored a season high 18 points against the Lakers and followed it up with 16 against the Hornets. He had a huge tip-in basket during the Hornets game that helped seal the victory. Coach Paul Westphal has been playing Dalembert and Cousins together a lot more lately and it seems to be paying dividends.
Big man Jason Thompson sprained his ankle at the end of the first half against the Hornets Saturday night. He will not play Tuesday against the Celtics and is listed as day-to-day after that. Dalembert will take his place in the starting lineup until he returns. Swingman Francisco Garcia is still out with a sprained calf and is probably a few weeks from returning.