SACRAMENTO, Calif. — DeMarcus Cousins was more concerned with Sacramento’s defensive deficiencies than he was pleased by another big offensive night.
Cousins scored nine of his season-high 39 points in overtime in his return from a stomach ailment, and the Kings rallied after blowing a lead late in regulation to hand the New York Knicks their seventh straight loss, 135-129 on Dec. 27.
“We have to get back to being the real Kings,” Cousins said. “That’s wanting to defend at a high level, taking pride in actually playing defense. We can’t be a team that comes out every night and tries to outscore people. That’s not us.”
Rudy Gay scored 29 points and Darren Collison added 27 points, 10 assists and a tiebreaking 3-pointer late in overtime for the slumping Kings.
Sacramento had lost seven of its previous eight games, including four of five under interim coach Tyrone Corbin. But a matchup with the NBA’s second-worst team helped reverse that slide after the Kings blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead.
“We’ve been struggling to find a way to win,” Collison said. “When you struggle so much, you really don’t know how to win. It’s just good to get a win under our belt right now so we understand this is how we need to play.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points for the short-handed Knicks, who dressed only nine players in losing for the 17th time in 18 games.
Forward Quincy Acy was suspended for a flagrant foul against Washington’s John Wall on Dec. 25. Forward Amare Stoudemire (right knee) and guard J.R. Smith (partially torn left plantar fascia) were held out with injuries. New York is already without forward Andrea Bargnani (strained right calf) and guard Iman Shumpert (left shoulder).
“We stayed committed to each other as teammates no matter what the circumstances were,” coach Derek Fisher said. “They kept fighting out there. You have to have that in order to give yourself a chance to win.”
New York fought back to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Cole Aldrich converted a three-point play with 38 seconds left to make it 117-115 and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored on a fast break following a turnover by Cousins to tie the game.
Anthony then stole the ball from Gay with a second left to force overtime.
The Kings took the lead for good on a corner 3-pointer from Collison with 1:22 to play. A dunk by Cousins extended it to five and Collison’s fast-break layup sealed it with 39 seconds remaining.
“He kind of fuels the whole engine,” Corbin said of Collison. “When he goes, that picks up the pace for us. I thought he did a great job leading us tonight.”
The Kings once again showed they are a completely different team with Cousins on the floor than when he is out injured. A night after Cousins sat with an illness in a loss to Phoenix, he got off to a fast start against the Knicks. He scored 15 points in the first seven minutes, including an emphatic dunk over Samuel Dalembert and a rare 3-pointer.
The Kings improved to 11-8 with Cousins on the floor. Sacramento has lost nine of 11 without Cousins, who missed 10 games with viral meningitis. The struggles during that stretch contributed to the decision to fire coach Michael Malone last month.
(JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer)