Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 113, Kings 100
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
SACRAMENTO – As Tyreke Evans warmed up on the Sleep Train Arena court prior to Monday’s game against his former NBA team, a video tribute for Evans played overhead. When the highlight-filled video concluded, thousands of Sacramento fans cheered their appreciation for the former four-year member of their Kings. Only a few feet away from Evans’ seat on the New Orleans Pelicans’ bench, fans held up thank-you signs, including one that read “WE’LL ALWAYS LOVE TYREKE EVANS.”
In short, it was one of the warmest, classiest welcomes a visiting NBA player could ever hope to experience. But once Monday’s game tipped off, Evans almost immediately began making sure that those same fans would not see their home team prevail.
In what was Evans’ finest performance so far in a New Orleans uniform, the reserve catalyst posted season-highs in points (25) and assists (12). The fifth-year pro helped spark the Pelicans’ 36-23 edge in the fourth quarter, which broke open what had been an exceedingly tight game. After New Orleans (12-14) led by a point through the first quarter, the matchup was tied at halftime and through three quarters. The Pelicans’ fourth-quarter eruption ended a four-game losing streak and wrapped up their five-game Western Conference road trip in enjoyable fashion.
“It was definitely fun coming out here playing against this team and in front of these fans,” Evans said. “It’s always been good since I’ve been here as far as the organization and the fans. I just want to thank them for that and thank them for giving me the opportunity to play for the Kings.”
“He was excited,” Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis said of Evans’ approach to his return to Sacramento. “The night before the game, I told him, ‘You’re probably going to go for 50 (points).’ He said, ‘I don’t care about that, I just want to win.’ Beating your old team is fun, so all he cared about was winning. (The Kings) kept giving him open lanes – which I don’t know how, because they played with him the years before. He’s a good player. He really showed that tonight.”
In a game that was broadcast live by NBA-TV, a nationwide audience was treated to a very entertaining, closely contested matchup between two of the Western Conference’s youngest teams. Neither club could create any breathing room as the lead changed hands 18 times. There were also 17 tie scores, the last coming at 92 apiece with 5:35 remaining. From there, New Orleans finally gained control, on the strength of a 16-3 run that made it 108-95 at the two-minute mark. During the Pelicans’ 36-point fourth quarter, four players scored exactly six points, including Evans, Davis (total of 21 points, 11 rebounds), Ryan Anderson and Brian Roberts. Anderson had a cold shooting night in his hometown, but nailed two pivotal three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Roberts had been out of the rotation in recent games, but managed to deliver a string of key plays Monday.
“We went into halftime tied up, then the end of the third quarter tied up,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “The last quarter before we go home (after an 11-day, five-game road trip), I just told the guys, this is about us getting (defensive) stops. Our defense had to prevail in the fourth quarter, and I thought it did. Our guys continued to scrap.”
In the finale of a road trip that included its share of obstacles and frustrating defeats, the Pelicans had to overcome foul trouble to Anderson and backup center Alexis Ajinca, as well as a third-quarter injury that sidelined Eric Gordon for the rest of the game. Gordon had been playing very well, piling up 17 points in his 21 minutes. As a result of the foul trouble, Williams inserted Lou Amundson for key minutes. Roberts was pressed into key duty after Gordon was unable to return to the game in the second half.
“We got a contribution from a number of guys off the bench,” Williams said. “Tyreke, with 25, 12 and six (rebounds) coming back here, that’s tough. Alexis was really good in the second half, and (Roberts) was really good on both ends. He played good defense, made timely shots and was good in pick-and-rolls. We needed guys to step up. That’s what we got.”
“We wanted to get a win to end the road trip,” said Anderson, who was 3-for-9 shooting and whistled for five fouls, as well as a rare technical foul, in an arena he played in as a high school standout. “It was just a good team win. It doesn’t really matter statistically how you do when we win. So I’m really glad. Tyreke had a great homecoming for him. It was just really nice to see him so aggressive and play so great tonight, really just take over the game for us.”