Tyreke Evans has been a solid scorer throughout his four-year NBA career. Still, the one thing he’s always lacked is a consistent outside shot.
Evans made two consecutive 3-pointers late in the game and teammate DeMarcus Cousins had 25 points and 13 rebounds to help the Sacramento Kings beat the struggling Toronto Raptors 107-100 on Wednesday night.
The Kings used strong fourth-quarter play from Cousins and Evans to earn a rare victory. Sacramento had dropped nine of its previous 11 games, including an embarrassing 35-point loss Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Evans, back in the starting lineup after missing the past two games with a bruised left knee, scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. The point total wasn’t a surprise, but hitting back-to-back 3s was unexpected. Evans entered the season as a 25 per cent career shooter from 3-point territory and had made six of 22 attempts this season.
With the game tied at 95, Evans put the Kings on top for good with a 3-pointer, then connected on another one from the same spot 30 seconds later, giving Sacramento 101-95 lead with 1:43 remaining. Both times Evans stared at the Toronto bench defiantly after sinking his shot.
“I’m happy for him, especially on his outside shooting,” said Cousins, who scored seven points in the final 5:28. “If Tyreke gets confidence in that shot he’s going to be an incredible player.”
Kyle Lowry had a huge second half, scoring 29 points. He pulled the Raptors within four on his fourth 3 of the game with 18 seconds left, but the Kings made free throws to secure the victory.
“Tyreke made two huge 3s and pretty much put the game away,” Lowry said. “He’s just coming off an injury, so I know he’s not 100 per cent. But those 3s showed how he is a big-time competitor. And Cousins is just a bull. He’s very talented and everyone knows that.”
It’s been a rare occurrence this season when both Cousins and Evans are major offensive contributors.
But that was the case against the Raptors.
“That’s very important. I think it starts with us two. DeMarcus in the post and me in the pick-and-rolls getting into the paint,” Evans said. “That’s one of the things I wanted to do tonight, drive the ball and get fouled.”
Evans started slow, missing his first four shots in the first quarter. He had seven points at halftime but began connecting in the third and finished 7 of 16. He struggled a bit from the free throw line, shooting 7 of 12.
“I thought he was pressing in his first game back,” Kings coach Keith Smart said. “But he settled down and he didn’t force the issue.”
Jason Thompson added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, while John Salmons scored 12 and Aaron Brooks 11.
Lowry had a season-high 34 points, two below his career best. He also added 11 assists and five rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost two straight and eight of nine.
Mickael Pietrus scored 21 points, DeMar DeRozan added 14 and Ed Davis chipped in 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“That’s the ballgame right there: They had 56 points in the paint,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “They had their way with us in the paint. Everybody’s going to look at Tyreke Evans. He hit two 3s and he hit six all season. We did the right thing trying to protect the paint.”
After Lowry hit a 3 and followed with a shot from close range, Cousins responded with a three-point play and a jumper, tying the score at 91 with 4:31 to go. A left-handed shot off the glass by Cousins put the Kings ahead 95-93 with 2:36 left.
Pietrus made a pair of free throws early in the fourth quarter, concluding a 22-5 run that began midway through the third. But the Kings rallied quickly, taking an 85-84 lead on Jimmer Fredette’s runner in the lane at the 8:09 mark.
“You can’t explain in words how frustrating it is,” DeRozan said. “We try to work as hard as we can, but the ball doesn’t bounce our way, the ball doesn’t go in when you need it to go in. It’s everything you can think of.”
Salmons made a pair of 3s early in the third and scored eight points as Sacramento built its lead to 73-60 midway through the period. Lowry helped bring the Raptors back, scoring 15 points in cutting the Kings’ lead to 78-76 entering the fourth.
Cousins scored 14 points and Thompson had 11 in the first half, helping the Kings take a 55-47 lead.
Operating exclusively inside, the struggling Cousins got going early, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. Pietrus had 11 for Toronto, which was outscored 26-18 in the second.