March 23, 2015

The Philadelphia 76ers have produced some encouraging results despite the absence of their expected franchise player.

The Sacramento Kings are simply hoping they'll have theirs available when they host the NBA's least successful team Wednesday night.

Sacramento played much of Monday's 122-103 loss at Golden State without DeMarcus Cousins after he was ejected early in the second half, an incident that potentially could draw additional discipline from the NBA given the volatile center's history. Cousins, tied with Blake Griffin for the league lead with 16 technical fouls over the past three seasons, has been suspended five times by the NBA and once by the Kings since 2012-13.

Ahead by two points when Cousins was tossed early in the third quarter, Sacramento (12-19) was outscored 26-9 by the defending NBA champions over the remainder of the period. The 2015 All-Star finished with a season-low seven points in 12 minutes.

"With Cuz out we never could find an offensive rhythm in the third quarter, which is where we lost the game," coach George Karl said.

The Kings are already thin at center with rookie Willie Cauley-Stein sidelined with a dislocated finger and Kosta Koufos having missed Monday's game with gastroenteritis.

Jahlil Okafor could miss a third straight game for Philadelphia (2-31) due to a knee injury, though the 76ers have actually fared relatively well without him. After snapping a 23-game road skid with Saturday's 111-104 victory over Phoenix, they led Utah in the final minute before falling 95-91 on Monday.

Nerlens Noel is 14 of 16 from the field since moving to center with Okafor out, while newcomer Ish Smith has tallied 36 points and 16 assists in two games since being acquired from New Orleans. Smith had 22 points and 11 assists against the Jazz, Noel recorded 18 points and a season-high five blocks and rookie Richaun Holmes added a career-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

"So many positives," coach Brett Brown said. "You look at what Nerlens did. You look at what Richaun Holmes did. You look at Ish third period. All over the place it was a great team effort. I think the carryover from the Phoenix game is evident that something is brewing here."

Though they've lost 40 of 42 on the road, the Sixers had won six straight in Sacramento prior to a 107-106 defeat on March 24. Cousins amassed 33 points and 17 rebounds that night and had 39 and 24 in a 114-107 loss at Philadelphia on March 13.

With Cousins' status in question and Rudy Gay struggling, the Kings may rely on Omri Casspi after his brilliant shooting effort against Golden State. The Israeli forward tied a franchise record with nine 3-pointers and ended with a career-high 36 points.

Casspi leads the NBA with a 48.7 percent success rate on 3s and is averaging 21.7 points over a three-game stretch. He's 14 of 21 from beyond the arc during that span.

Gay is shooting just 37.7 percent over his last four and finished 6 of 16 from the field on Monday, following a 2 of 12, seven-point effort in Sunday's 98-94 home loss to Portland.

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