CLEVELAND — Anthony Bennett was lost in space for much of his rookie season.
Suddenly, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward looks like one of the team’s emerging stars.
Bennett recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday in the Cavaliers ‘109-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings before 14,245 at Quicken Loans Arena.
It was the third consecutive win for Cleveland (19-33).
“You can see why we drafted him,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “He’s starting to come to life. He’s even better than what we saw tonight.
“He can play. It was unfortunate he got hurt and didn’t play in summer league. Part of it was being a young rookie. He got himself right. What you’re seeing now is who you’ll see in the future.”
Center DeMarcus Cousins paced the Kings (17-35) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Isaiah Thomas added 16 points and eight assists for the Kings, who have the worst record in the Western Conference.
The Kings blistered the Cavaliers on Jan. 12, 124-80. The 44-point loss was the Cavaliers’ worst of the season.
The Cavaliers said that devastating loss was never brought up in pregame preparation.
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, had career highs in both points and rebounds. He made six of nine shots from the field and three of three from behind the arc.
“The hard work I’ve put in with the coaching staff has really paid off,” Bennett said.
The Cavaliers (19-33) had five players in double figures, led by forward Luol Deng’s 22 points.
Shooting guard Dion Waiters added 20 points and eight assists.
The most impressive stat of the night was in the assist department. They dished out a season-high 30 assists on just 41 field goals.
“Defensively, that means you’re not guarding anybody,” Kings coach Mike Malone said. “They blew by us all night long. No resistance. I’ve very disappointed in our effort, competitive spirit and togetherness.”
The Cavaliers were playing without starting center Anderson Varejao (back) and swingman C.J. Miles (sore foot).
Yet, they pounded the Kings on the boards, 45-36, including a 15-9 edge on the offensive glass.
Power forward Tristan Thompson recorded his 23rd double-double of the season with 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Guard Kyrie Irving had 13 points and six assists for the Cavaliers, who travel to Detroit on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers announced after the game that Varejao will not travel to Detroit.
Tyler Zeller, Thompson and Henry Sims took turns guarding the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins, who had 11 points and six rebounds in the first quarter.
“You’re not going to stop him,” Brown said. “He’s a talented young, big guy. He can do a lot with the ball, inside and out. We wanted to make him work.”
He made just five of 12 from the field.
“First of all, the effort wasn’t there tonight,” Cousins said. “I really don’t have an answer for it.”
Malone wasn’t happy with his team’s performance.
“Just an overall poor effort,” he said. “We didn’t defend at all, and Anthony Bennett kicked our (butt). I’m sure (fired GM) Chris Grant is smiling at home, and deservedly so. His No. 1 guy came in and gets his career high in points and rebounds.”
After struggling for most of the season, Bennett is averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in his last five games. In that span, he’s shooting 48.6 percent from the field (17 of 35) and 62.5 percent from the 3-point line (5 of 8).
“For me, I guess I was just being anxious,” Bennett said. “I’m just on the court, trying to make the best play for everybody. I’ve calmed down a little. I have to try to have fun and that’s it.”
NOTES: Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao (sore back) and G/F C.J. Miles (sore right foot) were held out of the game. Varejao had a MRI on his back on Monday, but that’s not his only ailment. “He has a sore body,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. The 6-foot-11, 267-pound Varejao is the team’s leading rebounder at 10.3 per game and is its best post defender. “It’s a pretty big blow,” Brown said. “His forte is defending the paint. I hope it’s not a long-term thing.” … Cavs C Tyler Zeller moved into the starting lineup. Henry Sims was also pressed into action in a backup role. … Kings coach Michael Malone was an assistant on Brown’s staff in Cleveland for five seasons from 2005-10. Besides LeBron James, what does Malone remember most about being with the Cavs? “Being with LeBron James,” he laughed. Kings assistant coach Chris Jent was the Cavs’ director of player development from 2006-09 before becoming an assistant coach from 2009-11. Jent joined Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State for two seasons (2011-13) before joining the Kings. … Cavs G Kyrie Irving has scored a league-high 44 points in overtime this season. He has averaged 8.0 points per game in OT this season, second-most in the NBA. … Kings G Isaiah Thomas is coming into his own. “He’s scored his whole life,” Malone said. “The question is whether he can make everyone around him a better player?”
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