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Kings end Spurs’ dominant run in Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins wore a 4-inch gash just underneath his left eye, courtesy an elbow from San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili

Such is life under the basket for one of the NBA’s best centers, but on nights like Saturday, the pain is worth it.

“Hurt like crazy when it happened,” Cousins said. “But it’s fine now. Winning helps.”

Winning against the Spurs probably helps more. Cousins finished with a game-high 25 points, and his two key free throws with 21.4 seconds left helped the Kings end years of home futility against the defending NBA champs with a 94-91 victory at Sleep Train Arena.

“We got back to playing the game the right way,” Cousins said. “That’s the big part.”

It wasn’t the only big part. Sacramento posted a home win against the Spurs for the first time since Nov. 26, 2007. San Antonio had won each in each of its previous nine trips to Sacramento.

The Kings were able to hold on after blowing leads in excess of 20 points in each of their previous two games — losses at Dallas and Memphis.

“It feels great any time you can beat the defending champions and protect your home court,” Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. “More important for me tonight was the defense. … We held that team to 91 points and 42 percent (shooting) from the field.

“We dominated the paint and had only nine turnovers. If we defend like that, I really feel like we can beat anyone in the NBA.”

With a 6-4 record, Sacramento is off to its best start since the 2004-05 season. The Kings also ended a three-game losing streak.

Cousins scored 21 of the 25 in the second half and proved to be unstoppable down low.

Guard Darren Collison added 19 points and knocked down one of two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to provide the final margin.

The Kings won despite missing all 12 of their shots from 3-point territory.

“This team is maturing,” Collison said. “Nobody was happy the way we lost the last two games, but there’s nothing you can do about that. All you can do is concentrate on the present and the future. You can’t worry about the past, and guys in here really are taking that to heart.”

Ginobili finished with 21 points to lead the Spurs, who failed in their attempt to finish a four-game road trip with a perfect mark. San Antonio, which had won 21 of its previous 22 against the Kings, had won its last four in Sacramento by an average of 15.5 points per contest.

“Couple of guys were probably a little bit tired at the end of the road trip, but everybody goes through that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We had a good chance to win the thing. We just didn’t.”

Sacramento led 78-68 with 8:30 to go after Gay hit a 7-foot jumper, but the Spurs gradually reduced the lead, using a handful of defensive stops and a steady procession to the foul line.

Duncan made six free throws and Ginobili stripped Collison on consecutive possessions, leading to guard Tony Parker’s 3-pointer and layup and an 88-87 San Antonio lead with 2:01 left.

But Gay knocked down two free throws on Sacramento’s next possession and Collision increased Sacramento’s lead to three with a driving layup with 28 seconds. The Kings never trailed again. Ginobili air-balled a 3-pointer from the left arc at the final buzzer for San Antonio.

“We had some defensive stops, but they got a defensive rebound, made a couple of shots,” Ginobili said. “It was little things, but little things can make the difference between winning and losing.”

Forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Danny Green each had 16 points for San Antonio, and forward Tim Duncan added 15 points and eight rebounds. Guard Tony Parker added 11 points.

Gay added 18 points, and forward Omri Casspi had nine points and played harassing defense on Parker during his 22 minutes of action.

NOTES: No opponent in Sacramento’s first 10 games has scored 25 points, tying the Kings’ record in the shot-clock era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Among the players Sacramento held below 25: Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Clippers F Blake Griffin and Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki. … Spurs F Tim Duncan played his first game since tying Hall of Fame C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only other player with 25,000 points, 14,000 rebounds and 2,500 blocks in a career. He and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich entered the night with 903 wins in their careers together, 138 more than Utah Jazz F Karl Malone and coach Jerry Sloan for the most by a player-coach combination in NBA history. … Kings C DeMarcus Cousins received a technical foul for the second straight game, but it might go down as only his first of the season. Team officials indicated the league rescinded the technical that Cousins received at Memphis on Thursday. … Duncan needed 11 double-doubles to tie Malone for fifth on the career list but 165 behind leader Wilt Chamberlain.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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