SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento Kings coach George Karl shrugged off his milestone 1,155th victory Saturday, preferring to focus on his team’s current plight rather than tying Phil Jackson for the fifth most career victories in NBA history.
DeMarcus Cousins had 32 points and nine rebounds to help give Karl and the struggling Kings some temporary relief with a 142-119 victory over the Phoenix Suns, who lost their eighth in a row.
It’s been a long journey for the 63-year-old Karl, who has a sparkling 1,155-795 record in 27 seasons, twice overcoming cancer in a five-year period.
Now he’s tasked with turning around a team that has experienced nine straight losing seasons.
Karl has a combined 23-39 record with the Kings, including a 13-20 mark this season that has been characterized by erratic play. The latest loss was an agonizing one Wednesday at home to Philadelphia, which has the NBA's worst record.
"Our record brings a lot of energizing drama to our team, and in today's world it gets magnified in a crazy way," Karl explained. "Our team has done a better job with what they have been dealt than people give them credit for most of the time."
Karl isn't comparing himself to Jackson, but he planned to enjoy the win.
"The beer will taste like champagne," Karl joked. "It's good, a fun thing with my family, my son, my daughter, my son-in-law and staff. We joke about it all the time. As I said before, he's a great coach, maybe the best. I don't know what our record is against him, but I'm pretty sure it's not very good."
Karl's latest team was very good in the second half. The point total is the most scored by the Kings since they had a Sacramento-era record 154 points against Philadelphia, 23 years ago on Jan. 2, 1993.
Darren Collison had 21 points and six assists and Marco Belinelli had 19 points for the Kings. Rudy Gay added 16 points and Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists. The Kings shot 61.6 per cent in snapping a three-game skid.
"When we get stops we are at our best," Rondo said. "We were moving the ball, everyone was getting touches, and we were in rhythm. It was contagious."
Brandon Knight had 23 points and Devin Booker had 21 for the Suns, who have lost 10 of 11. TJ Warren scored 19 points and Mirza Teletovic had 13.
The Kings erased a four-point deficit with 12 straight points in the third quarter. Cousins and Rondo both had nine points and Sacramento produced a season-high 44-point quarter in taking a 103-87 lead into the fourth.
"We have to continue to play no matter what happens throughout the game," Knight said. "In the third quarter we stopped getting stops and they started to open up their lead by making shots. If you don't get stops in this league it makes it tough to win."
CHANDLER QUESTIONS EJECTION
Chandler, who started at centre, was ejected after arguing a foul in the third quarter. After being called for his fourth personal, Chandler made the "T" sign with his hands and quickly drew one technical then an ejection from referee J.T. Orr.
"I wasn't expecting that quick of a trigger for two technical fouls," said Chandler, who played just over 12 minutes. "That might be the first-ever in the league, to get two technical fouls for the price of one. As soon as I started arguing he threw me out."
HORNACEK STUCK ON 99
Suns coach Jeff Hornacek remains one win away from 100 victories. He has been stuck on 99 for just over two weeks with his last win coming Dec. 18.
He had praise for Karl's accomplishment.
"He's been coach a long, long time. Even I've played against him," Hornacek said. "But he's always done a great job with his teams, and they've always been high-scoring and high-flying teams. He's one of those great coaches of all-time with a lot of wins he's racked up."
Suns: Phoenix played without leading scorer Eric Bledsoe, who missed his fourth straight game and is out for the season. . The two teams have a combined seven players from the University of Kentucky. ... Disgruntled forward Markieff Morris didn't play for a second straight game.
Kings: San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo sat in a courtside seat for a second straight game. ... The Kings had a 23-2 first-quarter run and led by 17 points. ... Willie Cauley-Stein, a rookie, returned for the first time since Dec. 3 when he went out with a dislocated right finger. He played the game's final five minutes. ... Cousins gave Karl a high five after the coach was called for a second quarter technical. ... Rondo, the NBA assist leader, has recorded 10 or more assists 20 times. ...
Suns: visit the Lakers on Sunday.
Kings: visit Oklahoma City on Monday.