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Kings top Grizzlies 119-110 for third straight win

By Antonio Gonzalez

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 10:52 p.m. MDT

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, right, reacts after being called for fouling Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, of Spain, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, March 20, 2012.

Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Marcus Thornton scored 31 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points and five rebounds before fouling out and the Sacramento Kings held off the Memphis Grizzlies 119-110 on Tuesday night for only their second three-game winning streak this season.

Thornton added seven rebounds and six assists, and Tyreke Evans returned after missing the last two games because of a sprained left ankle, scoring nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Kings pull away.

Rudy Gay had 23 points and six rebounds, and Marc Gasol added 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Grizzlies, who began a stretch of nine of 11 games away from home. Memphis has three of its last four.

Sacramento's current three-game winning streak might be more impressive than when it rolled off wins against Portland, Golden State and New Orleans from Feb. 2-6. The Kings have beaten Boston, Minnesota and Memphis — all teams in, or fighting for, playoff spots — in the past week.

Sacramento had to sweat out the latest victory.

After Memphis moved within three, Sacramento started an 11-2 run highlighted by a pair of layups by Evans and a dunk by Jason Thompson to go ahead 106-94. The spurt stalled when Cousins fouled out reaching for the ball near halfcourt with 6:48 remaining, flicking his headband off in disgust.

If only for a moment.

The Kings clamped down on defense and turned some sloppy Grizzlies turnovers into easy baskets. When Thompson grabbed a rebounded and tossed it ahead to Isaiah Thomas for an uncontested layup with 3:05 remaining, Sacramento took a 12-point lead that proved too much for Memphis to overcome.

By the end, Cousins somehow ended up wearing coach Keith Smart's jacket on the bench in the final minute and the two shared a laugh on the sideline — leave it to a rare winning streak to create such a scene.

Sacramento started strong despite its short-handed — and short — point guard spot.

All of 5-foot-9, Thomas started in place of the hobbled Evans for the third straight game. Thomas slipped and squeezed his way through the paint with ease, rebounding Marcus Thornton's air ball and tossing it in for a layup to put the Kings ahead 37-28 at the end of the first quarter.

Evans, still slowed by ankle injury, came off the bench after missing the last two games. Randolph, playing only his third game since tearing the MCL in his right knee New Year's Day in Chicago, returned to the starting lineup.

The spark on both sides still came from others.

The Kings built a 54-41 lead behind Thornton and Cousins and seemed to be in complete control in front of one of the sparsest crowds of the season. Instead, Memphis went on a 17-6 run to close within two before Sacramento extended its lead back to 10 points, getting a dunk from Jason Thompson on a 3-on-1 break just before the halftime buzzer.

Cousins received a bloody nose when he collided with Dante Cunningham in the third quarter. He twice had to leave the game — first team trainers had to plug Cousins' nose, then the power forward had to put on a new jersey after blood spilled onto his shorts — and Memphis narrowed Sacramento's lead to seven entering the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Memphis coach Lionel Hollins expects G Gilbert Arenas to join the team Wednesday in Portland. Arenas, waived by Orlando in December through the new amnesty clause, signed with the Grizzlies on Tuesday. ... The Kings honored three surviving military members of the Pearl Harbor attacks between the first and second quarters. ... Kings F Donte Greene was called for a technical foul in the second quarter. Greene ran up to an official arguing that he was pushed out of bounds.

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