By ALAN FERGUSON, AP
Thu Nov 15, 6:05 PM UTC
The Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks each struggled to overcome a short-handed rotation in their most recent games.
While it's unknown if the Hawks will have a pair of players available, the Kings are expected to have DeMarcus Cousins back in the lineup for Friday night's matchup in Sacramento.
Cousins was suspended for two games after he confronted San Antonio television analyst Sean Elliott in a "hostile manner" following a 97-86 defeat to the Spurs last Friday. The NBA players' association is attempting to recoup the center's lost pay from those contests.
Without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Kings (2-6) suffered two more losses, at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and to Portland on Tuesday.
"Despite believing the penalty (is) unwarranted, I want to apologize to the Sacramento Kings, our fans and especially to my coaches and teammates for this distraction of our goals,'' Cousins said in a statement. "As a leader of the team, I have to make the best decisions so my teammates can count on me. I am committed to continued growth and being the best player I can be."
Starting guard Isaiah Thomas also missed the 103-86 loss to the Trail Blazers due to personal reasons and his replacement, Aaron Brooks, didn't return after injuring his left ankle in the first quarter. Thomas is expected to back, but Brooks' status is uncertain.
The Kings got top draft pick Thomas Robinson back Tuesday after his own two-game ban for elbowing Detroit's Jonas Jerebko during a 105-103 victory Nov. 7. He had a career-high 12 points off the bench against Portland, but James Johnson was the only starter to score more than 10, registering a season-best 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
"The stuff that has happened to our team over the last few games, that's the frustrating part," coach Keith Smart said. "These guys that are playing right now are giving their all. Obviously when our team was intact, we were much better. We got to make sure that we don't have these kind of incidents anymore."
The Hawks' Al Horford and Devin Harris had to deal with circumstances more out of their control as both were hit with a stomach illness before Wednesday's game at Golden State, the third in a four-game West Coast road trip.
Already struggling to find consistent scoring, those absences hardly helped, but Atlanta proved competitive in a 92-88 loss. Lou Williams had 18 points off the bench, and Josh Smith provided 16 points and 10 rebounds.
"It was a gutsy performance by my guys," coach Larry Drew said. "After going down by 12 at one point, we fought back. A little short-handed tonight but still we had an opportunity.''
After topping 100 points in each of their first two games, the Hawks (3-4) have averaged 87.4 over their five. The Kings, meanwhile, have allowed an average of 100.7 over their last six contests.
Atlanta has gotten the better of Sacramento's defense lately, averaging 110.3 points during an eight-game win streak in the series.
Smith had 28 points in a 106-99 victory in northern California on March 11 while Cousins equaled that output and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Cousins' 24.0-point average in three games against the Hawks is his best versus any opponent.
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