Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay goes up for a power dunk over Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley at Sleep Train Arena on Dec. 15. The Kings won 107-97. (OBSERVER photo by Antonio R. Harvey)

NORTH NATOMAS — Without the suspended Rajon Rondo, the Sacramento Kings went on to convincingly beat the Houston Rockets 107-97 at Sleep Train Arena in front of 11, 323 fans on Dec. 15.

DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points, 12 rebounds, two steals, and one block to help give the Kings (10-15) their third straight victory and put them one game closer to the current eighth place Utah Jazz.

Rondo was suspended one game by the NBA for directing a derogatory and offensive term toward NBA referee Bill Kennedy in the Kings’ game against Boston in Mexico on Dec. 3.

Darren Collison started in Rondo’s absence and recorded 14 points, 13 assists, and seven rebounds. Omri Casspi added 19 points, six assists, and six rebounds for the Kings The Kings shot 50 percent (38-for-75) from the field.

The game was full of drama. Cousins, Houston center Dwight Howard, and Sacramento coach George Karl each had a technical foul and a fan had to be remove from the stands after getting into it with Houston player Jason Terry. Still, the Kings prevailed.

“They are tough because they can space the floor so well,” Houston’s interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the Kings. “They can play off the catch so well. They put pressure on your bigger guys who may not be comfortable guarding those guys on the floor like that.”

James Harden had 33 points, seven rebounds, and six assists for the Rockets (12-14) who are 0-2 on their current three-game road trip. The Kings also ended a seven-game losing streak to the Rockets.

Dwight Howard, who has been the focus of reports that say he is unhappy in Houston, was in foul trouble most of the second half, finished with four points, 4 rebounds, and two assists in 28 minutes.
After the game, Howard said the reports were untrue.

“I haven’t said nothing to nobody about anything. I’ve been positive and trying to help turn this thing around every way possible,” Howard said. “People are always going to make up lies and rumors to get off. But I haven’t said nothing about anything to anybody. That has never been my focus. I’m trying to get these guys to play better and get myself to play better. So why would I say that to anybody.”

Bickerstaff said before the game that he had talked to Howard and the center told him he was “committed” to the Rockets and winning.

“That’s what I believe and all that other stuff is noise,” Bickerstaff said.

Rondo will be back in uniform for the Kings’ road game against Minnesota on Dec. 17. He has since apologized twice to Kennedy, who since revealed that he was gay.

But right now, the back story is the Kings, who have been the front story through 25 games. Sacramento is playing well right now and improved to 8-7 at home overall.

“Now we got to go out on the road and win some games,” Karl said. “I think that the step that also is a part of our progression.”

By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer