A team finally found a way to slow New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, and that paid huge dividends for the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center.
Holding Davis to a season-low 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting, Sacramento took a 99-89 victory, avenging a loss at home to the Pelicans a week earlier.
“(Power forward) Jason Thompson did a great job bothering him when he was on him, (center) DeMarcus (Cousins) did a great job when he was on him,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “All of our bigs did a great job of trying to take away his air space, his separation, keep bodies on bodies.”
So irked was Pelicans coach Monty Williams concerning the 12 shot opportunities by Davis, who was coming off a career-high 43 points at Utah, that he said he’d meet with the team Wednesday morning to get to bottom of it.
“We didn’t play any kind of team basketball tonight,” said Williams after the Pelicans shot 41.8 percent, including 17.6 percent on 3-point shots. “We played the kind of basketball that you would maybe as a young team. We’re not that young.”
Davis left quickly after the game with what team representatives said was a cold, although he did speak briefly with the media.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of easy looks,” said Davis, who came into the game averaging an efficient 26.3 points on 18 shots per game. “Those (shots) that usually get us going, running the floor, getting to the free-throw line … I wasn’t doing it tonight. They just outworked us and made sure that we didn’t get any easy catches and take easy shots.”
The victory was the third in a row for Sacramento, off to a surprising 9-5 start.
The Pelicans (7-6) had won their past three home games and were 4-1 at home this season. And it was a disappointing loss in that center Omer Asik, who missed the past four games on the team’s Western Conference road trip with lower back pain, returned for the game.
Cousins had 22 points and 13 rebounds after getting 24 points and 17 rebounds in the first meeting with Asik sidelined. However, Omri Casspi, replacing injured Rudy Gay at small forward, scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Malone also credited backup point guard Ramon Sessions, who replaced injured Darren Collison, with getting Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday in foul trouble, a factor in the game.
Casspi, who briefly was a Pelican in the trade last summer that brought Asik from Houston, said he played power forward a lot with the Rockets, and the Pelicans didn’t think he was a good fit. He also has an expiring contract.
“With DeMarcus a load down low, when we move the ball from side to side, we will get open shots,” he said.
Tyreke Evans led New Orleans with 22 points, and Ryan Anderson scored 20 off the bench. Holiday had 11 points and just three assists.
Leading by five entering the fourth quarter, the Kings for the third time in four quarters, struck first with a 6-2 burst for an 81-72 lead 1½ minutes into it.
The score was 88-81 with Evans having been fouled when the Pelicans called timeout with 5:25 showing. When they returned, Evans missed both free throws, and Casspi made a running shot in the lane. Casspi stole the ball on the Pelicans’ ensuing possession and went in for a dunk, pushing the lead to 92-81 at 4:45.
The Pelicans dug an immediate hole, trailing 27-16 at the end of the first quarter in which they shot 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) while Sacramento was a torrid 11-of-21 (52.4). The Kings sprinted out to a 12-2 lead to start the game, during which they benefited from three Pelicans turnovers and grabbed eight rebounds.
With reserves then a small lineup with Davis at center, Anderson at power forward and John Salmons at small forward, the Pelicans battled back to tie the score at halftime, 49-49, scoring 24 of its 34 first-half points in the lane in the second quarter and shooting 13-of-24. After after being outrebounded 15-8 in the first quarter, they outrebounded Sacramento 16-6 in the second.
After all of its hard work to catch Sacramento, New Orleans trailed 75-70 at the end of the third. The Kings cut off the lane, with New Orleans scoring just six points in the paint. Davis scored two points in the third and ended the quarter with 11.
In the third, the Kings started pulling away at the 7:42 mark, when they beat New Orleans’ defensive rotation and Casspi hit a 3-pointer for a 60-57 lead. Casspi scored on the break after a miss by Davis 20 seconds later.
The lead reached nine – 75-66 – at 1:28.
NOTE: Malone, a former New Orleans assistant coach, was ejected from the game at 4:42 of the second quarter after complaining on a play in which Evans scored on the break, bringing New Orleans to 40-35, after a miss by Ramon Sessions.