Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Kings - March 31, 2014

Pelicans vs. Kings Game Preview

Two teams trying to close 2013-14 in strong fashion – with an eye toward making a big jump in the Western Conference standings next season – meet Monday night, when the New Orleans Pelicans host the Sacramento Kings.

New Orleans (32-41), which finished 27-55 a year ago, has already improved upon that win total and hopes to take another step forward in 2014-15, hopefully benefiting from some better luck on the injury front. Despite missing key players Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith for an extended period, New Orleans has played some very good basketball at times during the second half of the season, including a 6-2 run this month that included victories over quality opponents such as Miami, Brooklyn and the Clippers.

Sacramento went 28-54 last season and is likely to surpass that mark this time, barring a collapse over the final few weeks. Like the Pelicans, the Kings are building around a core group of young and talented players. Sacramento’s top scorers are the 23-year-old DeMarcus Cousins; point guard Isaiah Thomas, 25; and small forward Rudy Gay, 27.

Nearly all of New Orleans’ key players are in their early 20s, highlighted by first-time All-Star Anthony Davis, who just celebrated his 21st birthday three weeks ago. Tyreke Evans, who has been superb since seeing additional minutes in a starting role, is 24. Holiday won’t turn 24 until the offseason.

This is the fourth and final matchup of 2013-14 between the two young squads. Sacramento holds a 2-1 advantage over New Orleans by winning once in California and once at the Smoothie King Center. The Kings handed the Pelicans one of their most one-sided home losses of the season on Jan. 21, prevailing by a 114-97 tally. The Kings also won on March 3 in Sacramento, 96-89. In the Dec. 23 game captured by the Pelicans, Evans had one of the best games of his NBA career, notching 25 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

Pelicans Tyreke Evans
Intriguing matchup: Small forward
Tyreke Evans vs. Rudy Gay
Aminu, one of New Orleans’ most effective defenders, helped limit Gay to a poor performance in the Dec. 23 meeting. Gay was just 2-for-12 from the field and held to 11 points vs. the Pelicans, while Aminu notched 13 points and eight rebounds. Gay has averaged 20 points per game since coming to Sacramento in an early-season trade.
Kings Rudy Gay