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Role players help Kings topple Pelicans

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As usual, guard Isaiah Thomas, center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Rudy Gay played significant roles in a Sacramento Kings victory.

However, it was the play of two other players that had Kings coach Michael Malone excited after his team’s 96-89 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday at Sleep Train Arena.

Forward Reggie Evans and guard Ray McCallum may not be Sacramento’s biggest names, but they are making some of the team’s biggest contributions recently, according to Malone.

“Just trying to bring some veteran leadership, show that you never quit,” Evans said. “Understand your role for the team and do your best at it. That’s what I’m trying to.”

Evans had 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end, all resulting in baskets. McCallum scored eight points and played stifling defense on New Orleans shooting guards Eric Gordon and Anthony Morrow in the final quarter. Neither scored a point.

“I loved how Ray McCallum played,” Malone said. “For me, Ray is growing up in front of our eyes. The last couple of games, he played meaningful minutes, making big plays and showing no fear.”

McCallum, who also made Sacramento’s only 3-pointer, was coming off of a nine-point, five-assist effort against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

“I feel like I’m getting the chance to play now, so I’m finding a little rhythm out there,” McCallum said. “The game is slowing down and coming to me a little bit.”

The performances by Evans and McCallum complemented the usual from the Big Three — Cousins, Gay and Thomas combined for 59 points — and the Kings (21-39) snapped a three-game losing streak. They also handed New Orleans (23-37) its eighth consecutive loss.

The Pelicans are 0-4 on a five-game trip.

Thomas scored 11 of his 22 points in the third quarter. He sparked a decisive 22-7 run in the third that turned a 52-46 deficit into a 68-59 lead going into the fourth. Key among those shots was a driving floater from the right baseline that resulted in a three-point play.

Evans also stood out more in the second half, contributing eight of his 10 points and eight of his 13 rebounds.

“I’m not surprised,” Malone said. “We’ve all watched Reggie for years. I don’t care where he’s playing or who he is playing with, he’s going to bring great effort every minute he’s on the floor. He’s always been one of the top rebounders per minute in the NBA, and he’s got great toughness. He makes things happen out there.”

Cousins added a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds for his 36th double-double of the season. The Kings outrebounding the Pelicans 47-30, including 16-7 on the offensive end.

Cousins also avoided drawing a technical foul. The NBA’s leader with 16, Cousins will receive a one-game suspension the next time he draws a technical.

Gay, who matched a career-high with 41 points in the teams’ previous meeting Jan. 21, scored 14 points.

The Kings won with fewer than 100 points for the first time since Feb. 3 against the Chicago Bulls.

Former Kings guard Tyreke Evans led the Pelicans with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Forward Anthony Davis missed his first nine shots and finished with 13 points for the Pelicans (23-37). Davis made his final three shots after starting 1-for-11 from the floor. He did not sink a shot until the third quarter.

“He missed a lot of open shots,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “When he shoots 0-for-8, it’s tough for us to win.”

The performance did nothing to alleviate concerns about Davis’ left shoulder, which he injured last Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. The second-year pro shot a combined 5-for-20 while scoring only 21 points over his past two games.

Without Davis’ usual 20 points per game, the Pelicans have struggled to find offense. Guard Brian Roberts added 15 points and Gordon scored 10. The two rebounded from a horrid effort against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday by shooting a combined 10-for-22. The duo went a combined 2-for-21 against Los Angeles.

New Orleans is losing by an average score of 104-92 during its skid. The trip concludes Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

NOTES: New Orleans F Anthony Davis (20.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.96 blocks per game entering Monday) has a chance to become the first player to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game through an entire season since current Kings executive Shaquille O’Neal did so with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999-2000. … Sacramento is the only team with three players averaging at least 20 points per game. C DeMarcus Cousins (22.3 before Monday), G Isaiah Thomas (20.5) and F Rudy Gay (20.4) all were among the top 20 in NBA scoring entering the contest. … New Orleans was averaging 6.3 blocks per game entering the contest, the most in the NBA, and its 38 percent shooting from 3-point range ranked fourth. … Kings rookie G Ray McCallum averaged 15 minutes per game in his previous eight contests and was coming off a season-high 28-minute effort against Minnesota on Saturday. He averaged 8.8 minutes in the 22 games he played before Monday. … Sacramento opens its longest road trip of the season, seven games, Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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