Pelicans.com postgame: Kings 96, Pelicans 89
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
SACRAMENTO – Despite another big statistical effort in Sacramento from former Kings player Tyreke Evans, the New Orleans Pelicans dropped a fourth straight game on their five-game road trip Monday. Evans finished just shy of a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but the Kings used a second-half surge to take control of the game and hand the Pelicans an eighth straight defeat.
Evans’ 27-point output was his highest scoring game of the 2013-14 season, eclipsing the 25 points he scored during the Pelicans’ only other visit to California’s capital city, on Dec. 23.
A tight game for the bulk of the first half, it was tied at 57 midway through the third quarter, before Sacramento (21-39) went on an 11-2 run to build a 68-59 advantage entering the final 12 minutes. New Orleans (23-37) went 4-for-12 from the foul line in the pivotal third quarter.
“It’s the same old song,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said of the critical stretch. “We had the game in our grasp – we were up five or six (points) – and in a 2 ½-minute stretch, we go from up six to down nine. We missed about six free throws in a row, and that just broke our rhythm, and we just couldn’t get it back. We played decent up until that point. I thought we were getting a rhythm, and then it just went away.”
An above-average foul shooting team, ranked 13th in percentage out of 30 teams, the charity stripe proved costly for the Pelicans. New Orleans took its biggest lead of the game at 52-46, but second-year players Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis misfired on a combined six consecutive free throws from there. Sacramento capitalized partly behind an 11-point quarter by point guard Isaiah Thomas.
In a rarity, 2014 NBA All-Star Davis struggled for a second straight game, going 0-for-8 from the field in the first half. The 20-year-old, who has often carried the Pelicans’ offensive and rebounding attacks with multiple key players sidelined by injury, finished just 4-for-14 from the floor, tallying 13 points and four rebounds.
Evans did everything in his power in the second half to keep New Orleans close, racking up 20 of his 27 points after intermission. In his third straight start after he’d exclusively come off the bench for the Pelicans in the first three months of the season, Evans was 8-for-14 from the field and went 9-for-10 at the foul line. He also drained a pair of three-pointers, one area where he had struggled mightily in 2013-14.
“He was just being aggressive,” Williams said. “We need everybody to be (aggressive). It doesn’t matter though – we lost. To sit there and talk about one guy’s game after a loss is kind of silly.”
Evans’ 14 fourth-quarter points prevented his previous NBA team from celebrating the victory until the final minute, but New Orleans was unable to get any closer than seven points of the lead in the last 6:38.
After leaving Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, the Pelicans headed back to L.A. immediately after Monday’s game, in order to face the Lakers on Tuesday. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of NOLA’s current losing streak is that several of the games were winnable, including nail-biting defeats at Charlotte and Washington.
“It’s just a tough loss – another one,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to own it. We had another bad stretch that caused us to have a bad game. We know that. Everyone in our locker room understands it. Nobody’s going to rescue us. We’re not looking for anybody to feel sorry for us.”