Free-Fall Finished, Pelicans Roll Kings 102-88


The New Orleans Pelicans limped into Friday nights match-up on a 4-game losing streak, dropping 5 of 6. This recent slump came immediately after the Pelicans had taken over the 8-seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Pelicans finally broke their free-fall Friday night, winning 102-88 against the Sacramento Kings.

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A few weeks ago, with Kevin Durant sidelined for the season, it was hard to avoid imagining home playoff games in New Orleans at The Blender. Since then the Oklahoma City Thunder have ridden a Russell Westbrook supernova to a 3.5-game lead over New Orleans in the playoff standings.

The Sacramento Kings rolled into New Orleans Friday night, matching up ex-Kentucky Wildcats Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins – the two best interior players under 25 in the NBA. While John Calipari and Co. are deep into the tournament riding a perfect record, Davis and Cousins are looking towards the future, with both teams effectively eliminated from the playoffs.

With their eyes on the future, both young teams are seeking to establish a winning attitude heading into the offseason.

Mar 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Demarcus Cousins dominated the first half of the matchup, posting a crushing 23 PTS on 10/14 shooting with 9 REB. To put that in perspective, the rest of the Kings roster combined for 19 on 8-27 shooting. On the other side of the court, Cousins helped shut down Davis, who only managed 6 PTS on 3/14 shooting and 4 REB.

Despite Cousins performance, the Pelicans still managed to hold a 46-42 advantage at the half. It wasn’t a pretty performance from either team, with the Kings shooting 43% to the Pelicans 41%. The Pelicans weathered the poor shooting by properly managing the ball, only giving up 5 turnovers.

The 3rd quarter got off to an awkward start – the Kings scored a quick 9 points, turning their deficit into a 5-point advantage. At the same time, Cousins was called for two personal fouls and a tech in the first 40 seconds of the 2nd half.

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New Orleans found their feet though, with Evans and Davis heating up for a combined 20 PTS on 9/12 shooting. They led the Pelicans to an 11-point lead, before ending the quarter ahead 74-66. It helped that ‘Boogie’ Cousins cooled off with only 5 PTS amid his foul issues.

Mar 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots over Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) and guard Ben McLemore (23) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 4th quarter was never close, the Pelicans closed out the game holding a double-digit lead for much of the quarter. At the 7:47 mark New Orleans opened the lead up to 18. Cousins scowled for most of the run.

The role plays for New Orleans gave important contributions to the final score. The team defense was strong all night, and the Pels worked up a 47-37 rebound advantage. Quincy Poindexter and Norris Cole were a combined 11/19 for 28 PTS 6/11 from 3-range, scoring 16 and 12 respectively.

Eric Gordon was invisible with 4 PTS, but Evans ran the show efficiently, finishing 25 PTS 10 AST on 10-15 shooting and just 3 TOs. Anthony Davis finished his night much better than he started, totalling 24 PTS 9 REB and 6 BLK.

After the game Davis commented on Cousins, “We’re not gonna let one man beat us. We did a good job of taking everyone else out.”

After tonight’s contest, New Orleans only has 10 games remaining; four at home and six on the road. They are not technically eliminated from the playoff race, tying the Suns at 3 games back after tonight’s win. While 3 games may seem like a manageable deficit, it is highly unlikely in a 10-day span, barring injury to Westbrook.

New Orleans need to go at least 7-3 to give themselves a shot, but even in that scenario OKC would have to bottom-out the final few games of the regular season. Phoenix isn’t out of the race either, but at 3-games out they have an even smaller shot at the playoffs – with the Pelicans holding the tiebreaker over both teams.

You can catch a matinee game at the Smoothie King Center when the Pelicans take on the Minnesota Timberwolves. They follow that with a visit to Los Angeles for a game against the Lakers, then a rematch in Sacramento vs the Kings.

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