CK Press Box Report: Sacramento Kings 96, New Orleans Pelicans 89

by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

Recap

Box Score

 
Abysmal, anemic, atrocious –  take your pick.  Any of those three words could describe what transpired in the first half of Monday night’s match-up between the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans.

Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field before intermission. But unlike New Orleans, Sacramento was able to find its offensive rhythm in the period after halftime. They scored 28 points and shot 50 percent from the field in the third quarter en route to a 96-89 victory over the Pelicans.

“I think we just pushed the tempo,” Kings starting point guard Isaiah Thomas said of what changed for his team coming out of halftime.  “We got stops, for the most part, and we got out and running.  That’s what helps us.  When we can get out and run and get easy buckets in transition and play uptempo, I think that works to our favor and we did that in the third quarter.”

DeMarcus Cousins was able to overcome first half foul trouble to be a difference maker in the game. Cousins recorded his 36th double-double of the season, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.  Thomas also came alive in the second half, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the two final periods of the game.

Reggie Evans also played a critical role in the Kings’ victory on Saturday.  The veteran big man, who arrived nearly two weeks ago in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, recorded his first double-double this season, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds off the Kings’ bench.

“We’ve all watched Reggie for years,” Kings head coach Michael Malone said of the 33-year-old big man.  “I don’t care where he’s playing or who he is playing with, he’s going to bring great effort every minute that he is 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.”

The Pelicans did not go away quietly. Tyreke Evans led the charge for the Pelicans in his second game back in Sacramento as a visitor. Starting at small forward for New Orleans, Evans finished with a double-double, 27 points and 10 rebounds, while also dishing out a team-high eight assists.

The victory ends a three-game slide for the Kings. Sacramento moves to 21-39 overall and 13-19 at Sleep Train Arena. They now embark on their longest road trip of the season, a seven-game, 11-day schedule away from Sacramento, beginning Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Notes and Analysis

  • DeMarcus Cousins played under control for most of the game, despite a bevy of bad calls against him. Cousins finished with a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds, but played just 28 minutes due to foul trouble. The former Kentucky Wildcat turned the ball over six times, but he ran through the Pelicans defenders and hit 13-of-16 free throws. Not a bad night’s work.
  • Jason Thompson couldn’t hit his free throws and he finished the game with just six points and five rebounds. But the longest-tenured King played spectacular defense on Anthony Davis, especially in the first half when Davis went 0-of-8 from the field.
  • Reggie Evans is a beast on the glass. The veteran forward just out-works everyone the entire time he is on the court. Tonight was no different. The 33-year-old forward scored 10 points and ripped down 13 rebounds in 30 minutes off Malone’s bench.
  • Isaiah Thomas struggled early, but recovered to score 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting. He added five of the Kings 11 assists, but also turned the ball over five times.
  • Ben McLemore didn’t get lit up by an opposing shooting guard for the first time in a while. He scored 10 points in 29 minutes and held Eric Gordon in check for most of the night. It’s the first time in a while that McLemore showed real improvement in a game.
  • Ray McCallum continues to make the most of his minutes on the floor. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he makes timely plays and is rarely out of position. The Kings have started using him more as a second ball-handler next to Thomas and the results have been solid.
  • Rudy Gay had an off night and for the second straight game, he struggled to get shots. Gay finished with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 30 minutes of action. He struggled with foul trouble and like Cousins and Thomas, turned the ball over too much.
  • Stat of the Night: If the Kings lost this game, we would be pointing to 11 assists and 18 turnovers as the reason. But they didn’t lose and they dominated the glass to the tune of a 47-30 advantage.

Quote of the Night

Michael Malone’s opening statement:

 “Well, it’s another game with 19 turnovers for 21 points. We make it hard on ourselves. We make it interesting and entertaining. At some point, we’ll hopefully get back to being a team that values the basketball. It is our primary guys—you see DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, and Rudy Gay combining for 15 of those turnovers.

The great thing about tonight is that we dominated the glass. Reggie Evans’ effort was inspiring. DeMarcus was a load tonight. We held one of the highest rebounding teams to seven offensive rebounds and 42.7% from the field.

I loved how Ray McCallum played tonight. 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. He was stepping up and taking big shots—even if he didn’t make a couple I love that he steps up without any hesitation. They tried to post him up and go at him with Tyreke Evans, but I think that people are going to realize that Ray McCallum can guard. He can guard the one, two, and some threes.

It was a hell of a team effort tonight. We came out in that third quarter and got flat again—we were down, but our bench came in and gave us a spark. Rudy Gay really got it going and we got to the foul line tonight a ton which helped us get the win.”

Video shot and edited by Kimani David.

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