Pelicans.com postgame: Kings 102, Pelicans 97
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
With two-plus weeks remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, neither the Sacramento Kings nor the New Orleans Pelicans are part of the heated Western Conference postseason race. You never would’ve known it from watching Monday’s matchup at Smoothie King Center.
In the second half alone, the Kings’ Reggie Evans was ejected for a flagrant-foul elbow to the face of Anthony Davis; Quincy Acy and Austin Rivers received double-technical fouls for jawing with each other in the middle of the hardwood; Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow pumped his fists, high-fived courtside fans and let out a few primal screams amid his hot-shooting night; Kings rookie Ray McCallum yelled to the SKC ceiling amid a big fourth quarter and career-best game.
Sure, there may not have been much on the line in terms of playoff positioning or the standings, but the West’s 11th- and 14th-best teams still played an intense contest that produced some testiness on both sides. Ultimately, Sacramento (26-48) came away with a hard-fought victory, besting New Orleans (32-42) for the third time this season in four meetings. The Kings won twice in the Crescent City.
“We played like it was the playoffs,” said Morrow after his team-best 23-point game. “That’s a good team over there (in Sacramento), regardless of what you hear or whatever’s going on. They play extremely hard. They’ve got some young guys in situations like a lot of guys on our team, where maybe they’re on one-year contracts and they’re playing for that next deal. It’s a hard-playing team. They want to compete and win, and that’s what they did tonight.”
“It was a very intense game,” said Pelicans rookie Jeff Withey, who battled down low en route to a career-high five blocks, along with eight points and seven rebounds. “They’re physical. For us, we’re trying to get better every game. We don’t look at the record. We’re trying to build off what we did last week. They’re trying to do the same.”
Sacramento won by 17 in its previous visit to New Orleans in January, but this time faced a much stiffer challenge from the Pelicans. The hosts led 55-53 at halftime, but the Kings came out of halftime clicking on all cylinders, going on an extended 25-9 run that gave them a 78-64 edge. The Pelicans charged back into the game and got within one point of the Kings in the fourth quarter at 84-83, but couldn’t take the lead.
DeMarcus Cousins racked up 21 points in the second half alone, en route to a monster 35-point, 14-rebound performance. Sometimes matched up against fellow Kentucky product Davis (22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks after missing Saturday’s loss to San Antonio), Cousins scored a back-breaking reverse layup with 1:05 to go to make it 99-93. He added the final point of the night on a free throw with 3.9 seconds left. Meanwhile, McCallum notched career-highs in points (22) and assists (10).
The tone for the second half was set when Evans plowed through Davis in the paint, knocking over the 6-foot-10 All-Star. After viewing replays, Evans was ejected, after Davis checked his mouth to make sure all of his teeth were still intact. Fortunately for the Pelicans, in a season filled with injuries, Davis was OK and stayed in the game.
“I don’t know (what happened),” Davis said. “He had the ball in the post and was making his move. I’m not sure if he was trying to do it, or if it was part of the move. I’m not sure 100 percent. I need to see the film. I can’t tell you if he tried to do it or not. But I’m fine.”