Cauley-Stein makes his mark
Playing behind All-Star DeMarcus Cousins the past two years, Willie Cauley-Stein has been patiently waiting for his chance with the Sacramento Kings.
When he got the opportunity for extended playing time, he came through in a big way.
Cauley-Stein had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds to help the Kings, playing for the first time since trading Cousins, beat the Denver Nuggets 116-100 Thursday night.
The Kings made a blockbuster deal Sunday, trading Cousins to New Orleans. The controversial, often petulant star spent seven seasons with the Kings, who haven't had a winning record or made the play-offs since 2005-06.
Although he didn't start the game, the athletic Cauley-Stein was impressive from when he entered. He scored 19 points in the opening half and had eight in the fourth quarter when the Kings never let the lead dip below 12 points.
"There's not that thought in the back of your head, like 'oh dang, he's going to take me out if I make a mistake,' because at this point he's going to have to put me back in," said Cauley-Stein, who made 14 of 22 shots and played a season-high 35 minutes. "I was able to play free."
Their fifth victory in six games moved the Kings within a half-game of Denver for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets have dropped five straight to the Kings, including two this season.