SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Rudy Gay's locker room demeanor mirrors that of his on-court playing style: calm, cool, collected. The forward provided a spark to a team in desperate need of one, leading the Sacramento Kings to a 106-91 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday at Sleep Train Arena.
Gay, playing his first home game with the Kings after he was acquired in a seven-player deal with the Toronto Raptors, scored a game-high 26 points. He torched Houston defenders, energizing the crowd with his hustle and crafty finishes around the basket. With a horde of reporters surrounding him after the game, he calmly discussed his satisfaction with the Kings' team effort.
"We got a great win but we're still learning how to play with each other," said Gay, who also tallied five rebounds, four assists and four steals. "I'm just happy we got the win. My first win as a King."
Sacramento guard Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and eight assists, and center DeMarcus Cousins contributed 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who had lost eight of their previous 10 games.
The Rockets had a sloppy first half, committing 11 turnovers, and the Kings took advantage to build a 57-49 advantage at halftime.
"It seemed like we were out of sync from the beginning," said Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson, who was filling in for Kevin McHale. "
Houston never found its way in the second half. The Rockets faced an uphill battle after guard James Harden left the game with a left ankle injury early in the third quarter. He returned later in the period but was not as effective, settling mostly for long-range jumpers. He finished with a team-high 25 points.
"(Harden) was not effective, (I) probably should not have put him back in, but he wanted to go back in, so we let him try it," said Sampson. "But when he sprained his ankle, his night was basically over."
After shooting a blistering 55 percent from the field in the first quarter, the Rockets went cold the rest of the game, making only 41.3 percent of their shots.
Things were not much better from the free throw line, where they shot 22 of 38 (57.9 percent), including Dwight Howard's 5-for-13 effort from the line. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
"We committed a lot of turnovers and missed a lot of free throws," said Rockets forward Francisco Garcia, who tallied three points and four rebounds. "There's games where it's going to be like that, but now it's a couple games. ... We just got to go back and fix (those mistakes)."
Houston forward Chandler Parsons added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
"Sometimes you have to figure out that no matter who you play in this league, you have to play your A-game. ... I didn't think we were ready to play tonight," Sampson said.
Gay led a 12-1 run that extended the Kings' lead to 75-62 at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter. From there, the Kings kept the Rockets at arm's length and held on for the win.
Bench players like forwards Derrick Williams (11 points, six rebounds) and Travis Outlaw (eight points, seven rebounds, one blocked shot) helped the Kings maintain their lead late in the game.
Near the end of the third quarter, forward Quincy Acy, who came with Gay from the Raptors in the trade, threw down a ferocious slam dunk.
"I felt the energy of the crowd. The crowd just played a big part in our win tonight," said Acy, who finished with four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot.
The Rockets lost two of three on a road trip that concluded Sunday. They head home to face the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
The Kings played 14 of their first 20 games at home, and they now play six of eight on the road. They play the Bobcats in Charlotte on Tuesday.
NOTES: Rockets C Omer Asik did not suit up, missing his sixth straight game with a right thigh contusion. ... Rockets coach Kevin McHale did not travel with the team on its three-game road trip. He is back home in Minnesota where his mother, Josephine, died Thursday. ... Rockets G Jeremy Lin did not play due to back soreness that started in Oakland, Calif., against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Rockets F Terrence Jones (flu) was a game-time decision but ended up starting. ... Kings F Carl Landry warmed up before the game. He has yet to play this season, recovering from a torn hip flexor that he suffered in October. He is estimated to be out for the first half of the season. ... Prior to the game, Kings G Ben McLemore was honored as the Western Conference Rookie of the Month. He averaged 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds over 14 games in November.