"We've got enough talent to win on the road, but we're not strong enough yet to recognize it's about patience and playing the clock, as well as what happens when you have the ball," Kings coach Keith Smart said.
John Salmons' 3-pointer from the corner with 52.9 seconds remaining gave Sacramento the lead for good, 92-90. The win broke a seven-game losing streak away from home for the Kings, who are 2-13 on the road and played without injured guards Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, their second and third leading scorers. The Kings' previous road win was a 99-80 victory over Portland on Dec. 8.
Salmons' clutch shot came after Kyrie Irving's two free throws gave Cleveland a 90-89 lead with 1:12 remaining. As the Kings worked for a shot the Cavaliers double-teamed Cousins, who found Salmons open in the right corner.
"John couldn't really find his game tonight, but he made a big shot when we needed it at the end," Smart said. "DeMarcus did a nice job of finding him when the Cavs came at him."
"I feel like when this team shares the basketball, we're hard to beat," Cousins said. "That's my reason for doing it. I want to win games."
Irving scored 22 points to lead Cleveland, which has lost nine of 11 and is 3-11 at Quicken Loans Arena, where it has dropped five straight. After Salmons' crucial basket, Irving committed a turnover that led to Aaron Brooks' layup for a 94-90 lead.
"It's just a learning process," Irving said. "We did a great job of competing in the fourth quarter and getting stops when we needed to, but one mistake by myself when I slip in the middle of the lane, it's a turnover. ... That's the game."
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao, the league's leading rebounder, missed his seventh straight game with a bruised right knee. Cousins, who had 16 rebounds, sparked a dominant frontcourt performance by Sacramento, which outscored Cleveland 52-36 in the paint.
Cleveland coach Byron Scott was displeased with his team's effort in the third quarter, which saw the Cavaliers go from a one-point halftime lead to a 10-point deficit.
"We can't take a play off," Scott said. "We can't take a quarter off. We just can't do that right now and our guys have to understand that."
Irving hit a shot in the lane with 12.3 seconds left, cutting the lead to 94-92. Jimmer Fredette's two free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining made it a four-point game. Dion Waiters' basket cut the lead to two. Brooks split two free throws with two seconds remaining. Irving fired a desperation shot from beyond halfcourt that hit off the rim at the buzzer, but the officials ruled the shot would not have counted.
Francisco Garcia scored 14 points and Brooks added 13 for Sacramento.
Evans, who has missed 13 games because of a sore left knee, will rejoin the team Friday in Toronto. The Kings said Wednesday that a second opinion Evans got on his bothersome knee from Dr. Steve Lombardo in Los Angeles supported the team's treatment and rehabilitation plan.
Miles, starting at shooting guard in place of Waiters, cooled off after his hot start. Waiters, taken with the No. 4 pick in the draft, had started in all 24 of his previous appearances.
Thornton (sprained ankle) missed his second straight game. ... The Kings are 3-13 without Evans, who is averaging 15.1 points. ... Thompson was hit with a technical after being called for an offensive foul in the third quarter. ... Cavaliers G Daniel Gibson (concussion) was out for the second straight game. ... G Shaun Livingston, claimed off waivers last week, made his first appearance for Cleveland. He scored two points in 13 minutes.