Cousins and the Kings return home after a promising three-game road trip to open the season when they host the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Sacramento (2-1) has finished last in the Pacific Division the last two seasons while winning a combined 42 games. However, one reason the Kings were optimistic heading into this season was an outstanding debut campaign by Evans.
The reigning NBA rookie of the year, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds last season. After being suspended for the 2010-11 opener for pleading no contest to reckless driving following his May 31 arrest, he’s scored 39 points to go along with 13 assists and 11 rebounds in his first two games.
The Kings are hoping Cousins takes a similar path in his first NBA season. The fifth overall pick in this year’s draft recorded his first double-double in a 107-104 win at Cleveland on Saturday, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cousins is averaging 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
“He made some big plays,” coach Paul Westphal said. “I love his spirit and his enthusiasm and his skill.”
Sacramento, which blew a six-point lead with 2:30 remaining in a 106-100 loss to New Jersey on Friday, rallied from 16 points down against the Cavaliers. Evans scored 21 points and Beno Udrih(notes) had 12 points and 11 assists.
“It was a good road trip for us,” said Westphal, whose club plays its next four at home. “We can look back and say if we would have held that lead (Friday), we could have been 3-0, but … to get two of those games I feel good about it.”
Toronto (1-1) begins a four-game road trip after splitting a pair of home games to open the season.
The Raptors bounced back from a 98-93 loss to New York on Wednesday with Friday night’s 101-81 pounding of Cleveland. After shooting 38.3 percent against the Knicks, they shot 47.6 percent against the Cavaliers, led by Andrea Bargnani(notes) (20 points) and Linas Kleiza(notes) (19). Toronto also outrebounded the Cavs 46-33.
After losing Chris Bosh(notes) to Miami in the offseason, Toronto has been trying to replace the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. While Reggie Evans(notes) doesn’t have the offensive talent of Bosh, scoring two points in the first two games, Evans has been very productive on the glass, totaling 30 rebounds - including 14 in 27 minutes Friday.
“I think our defense kind of sustained throughout the whole game and it really showed and carried on to the offense,” Evans said. “We got some easy transition buckets. It was a good feeling, the defensive end really won the game for us.”
This will be a tough early test for the Raptors, who play eight of their first 10 games in November on the road. This trip is all against Western Conference teams, with visits to Utah, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland.
Toronto and Sacramento split their two meetings last season with each team winning at home. The Raptors are 2-12 all-time at Arco Arena.