CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers are headed toward the All-Star break on a high note.
So is Anthony Bennett, the much-maligned No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
As the Cavaliers avenged a 44-point loss to Sacramento with a 109-99 win over the Kings on Tuesday night, Bennett had 19 points and 10 rebounds — both career highs — in Cleveland’s third straight win.
“You’re starting to see a little bit of what we see in practice and the reason why we drafted him,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He’s a talented young man and he’s starting to come to life a little bit. He’s even better than what you saw tonight.”
Former general manager Chris Grant, who was fired last week, was roundly criticized for taking Bennett with the first pick in June, but the rookie from UNLV has made major strides after being a non-factor until mid-January.
“Anthony Bennett kicked our butt,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “I’m sure Chris Grant is smiling at home — and deservedly so — because that was his No. 1 pick.”
DeMarcus Cousins scored 21 points to lead the Kings, who have lost 10 of 12 and seven straight on the road. Isaiah Thomas had 16 points and Rudy Gay added 14 for Sacramento, which has dropped the first three games of a four-game trip that ends Wednesday in New York.
The Kings are 6-19 on the road.
“The effort wasn’t there,” Cousins said. “It was just bad overall. I don’t really have an answer, but whatever it is, it needs to be fixed. After the All-Star break, we’ll start fresh, which is what we need right now.”
Bennett hit two 3-pointers in a little over a minute in the second quarter and scored 11 points in the first half. His 3-pointer with 4:40 left in the game gave Cleveland a 100-85 advantage. Bennett was aggressive going to the basket — going to the line nine times.
Bennett had shoulder surgery before the draft and didn’t play in the summer league. He adjusted slowly once the season began, and his minutes were limited when he played.
That has changed.
Luol Deng led the Cavaliers with 22 points, and Dion Waiters added 20.
The Cavaliers, beaten 124-80 in Sacramento on Jan. 12, took a double-figure lead early in the second quarter and were in control the remainder of the game, breaking a three-game losing streak against the Kings.