NEW ORLEANS – This had absolutely nothing to do with finesse. This was brute force – a team imposing its will.
The Sacramento Kings have not had much to cheer about in a pedestrian 26-48 season, but in their 102-97 victory Monday night over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center, they “bludgeoned” the Pelicans, holding a 47-30 advantage on the boards and outscoring the Pelicans 22-4 on second-chance points.
On the offensive glass, they embarrassed the Pelicans, 15-3.
“We dominated,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who tied his season high with 35 points, including a reverse scoop with 1:05 left, and also grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds. “We did a good job on the boards tonight. That was one of our key points going into the game. Whichever team controlled the boards would be the victor.”
Sacramento coach Mike Malone said in an otherwise forgettable season, the Kings have proven themselves to be one of the NBA’s best rebounding teams. That was on display Monday night.
“When you can dominate the glass like that, you’re going to give yourself a chance every night,” Malone said. “We find a way to do that most nights. We bludgeoned them on the glass.”
It didn’t hurt Sacramento that rookie point guard Ray McCallum, playing for the injured Isaiah Thomas, scored 10 of his career-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, recording 10 assists against only one turnover in 44 minutes. In the Kings’ 103-100 road loss to Dallas on Saturday, McCallum became the first NBA player this season to play all 48 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. You got to be able to take care of the ball and make sure you get a shot every possession.”
McCallum caught fire in the final period, hitting five jumpers, including four of five in a 2:37 span, to give Sacramento a 95-87 lead with 3:49 left. The Pelicans (32-42) got within 97-93 with 1:21 left, but Cousins drove in from the left baseline past center Jeff Withey and hit a reverse layup for a 99-93 lead.
The Kings also got 22 points from forward Rudy Gay. New Orleans was led by guard Anthony Morrow with 23 points and forward Anthony Davis with 22, but they had no answer for Cousins or the Kings’ board dominance.
“They outrebounded us by 17 and they had 15 offensive rebounds,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “We just did not have a great level of sustained effort tonight. We didn’t have the scrappiness that we have been playing with. They wanted the ball more than we did on shots.”
The Pelicans closed within 84-83 on a four-point play by Morrow and a floating jumper in the lane, but Sacramento scored seven straight — a 3-pointer by Gay and back-to-back jumpers by McCallum — to lead 91-83 with 5:51 left.
Sacramento forward Reggie Evans was ejected in the third quarter for committing a flagrant-2 foul when he whacked Davis in the head with his left elbow on a drive to the basket. Davis made both free throws and Morrow followed with a 3-pointer on the same trip. Evans went to the showers with 12 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Malone said Cousins, who was snubbed as a Western Conference All-Star, is out to prove something the rest of the season.
“Tonight is another example of why to me he’s the best big man in the NBA,” Malone said. “That’s no disrespect to anybody. That’s no disrespect to Anthony Davis. But you look at his numbers, and even against this team, and he’s been a dominant force the whole season. His will to win was infectious.”
NOTES: Pelicans PF Anthony Davis, who missed most of the last two games with a left ankle injury, returned against the Kings. Davis threw a scare into the Pelicans when he played only four minutes in a 102-95 victory over the Jazz on Friday. … Coach Monty Williams said he gave no thought to holding Davis out for the final nine games of the season. “He wants to play,” Williams said. “With all the guys we have out, I think he kind of feels like he needs to be out there leading his team.” … In 13 previous starts, G Tyreke Evans averaged 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Williams says the 6-foot-6 Evans is best suited to playing shooting guard and occasionally playing the point, as opposed to playing small forward. … Sacramento PG Isaiah Thomas was sidelined with a right quad bruise. Rookie Ray McCallum, who played 48 minutes in a 103-100 loss to Dallas on Saturday, started in his place.
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