DeMarcus Cousins leads Kings past Pelicans
When DeMarcus Cousins drilled a 16-foot jump shot on the Sacramento Kings’ first possession of the second half, he had the look of a player who was ready to take over a game.
Next came a layup, then a follow shot as he was fouled for a three-point play, then a layup as he was fouled for another three-point play.
Cousins made all seven of his shots in the third quarter on his way to a 35-point, 14-rebound performance, and the Kings snapped a three-game skid with a 102-97 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
“I just had to come out and set the tempo for the second half and try to get my teammates involved,” Cousins said. “So that was my main thing.”
He did it on both ends, helping his team outrebound New Orleans 47-30. Sacramento pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, a big reason for the Kings’ 22-4 advantage in second-chance points.
“We dominated,” Cousins said, referring to the Kings’ rebounding. “That was one of our key points going into the game tonight.”
Ray McCallum, starting at point guard because of Isaiah Thomas’ right thigh injury, had 22 points and 10 assists. He also committed only one turnover in nearly 44 minutes.
“I have a great opportunity to go out there and play, and I’m trying to make the most of it,” McCallum said. “Being a rookie playing against great players, you can’t be out there turning the ball over.”
Rudy Gay also scored 22, including a momentum-swinging 3-pointer after the Pelicans had pulled within a point in the fourth quarter.
Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds before his ejection for an elbow to Anthony Davis’ face on a collision that occurred as Evans went up for a close-range shot.
Davis, returning from left ankle injury that forced him to miss a start on Saturday, had 22 points. Anthony Morrow scored 23 points and Tyreke Evans 15 for the Pelicans, who have dropped two straight on the heels of their season-high, five-game winning streak.
“We just did not have a great level of sustained effort,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said, adding that Cousins was a “tough cover.”
“A number of times we had double-teams down there and he just bulled through the double team and got to the basket,” Williams said.
Kings coach Mike Malone, who built a reputation for coaching defense as an assistant with Cleveland and later for New Orleans under Williams, was dismayed by the 55 points the Kings allowed in the first half, but was pleased by his team’s response thereafter.
“We bludgeoned them on the glass,” Malone said. “It’s a very good win for us on the road against a team that’s playing well.”
Sacramento used a 14-6 third-quarter run to lead by as many as 12 points.
The surge started with Cousins saving the ball along the baseline and slinging a pass to McCallum, who in turn found Ben McLemore sneaking in behind the defense for an alley-oop dunk. There were two more dunks during the spurt. Cousins powered up through a crowd of players under the basket for a two-handed jam which gave him 26 points at that point — and 5,000 for his four-year career.
McLemore, who had 14 points, ended the spurt with a breakaway dunk set up by Travis Outlaw’s steal from Darius Miller.
But New Orleans closed the period on an 8-0 run during which Evans was ejected. Officials conferred while watching a replay before calling the flagrant-2 foul on the Kings forward, who responded to the crowd’s applause of his dismissal by smiling and raising his arms as he walked to the tunnel.
Davis, who remained face-down on the court for several seconds after the foul, got up and hit both free throws. Then Morrow added a 3 to make it 80-76.
Morrow got the Pelicans as close as 84-83 with a jumper in the middle of the fourth quarter, but Gay responded immediately with a 3 from the corner, and McCallum added two jumpers to make it an eight-point game.
New Orleans never got closer than four points again, and McCallum finished with 10 points in the period.
“He’s definitely going to be a big part of this team,” Cousins said. “With each game he’s growing, his confidence is growing. So hopefully he continues down that path.”
NOTES: In his first season as a head coach, Malone went 3-1 against Williams’ team. ... Jared Cunningham played 4:17 in his first game since being signed by Sacramento. He had two points and a rebound. ... Pelicans C Jeff Withey had a career-high five blocks.