SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The New Orleans Pelicans know exactly where they stand.
Quincy Pondexter and the rest of the Pelicans glanced up at the NBA scoreboard every chance they got during their 101-95 victory at Sacramento on Friday night. They wanted to see if Oklahoma City might give them another chance to catch them in the standings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“I was watching it the whole game, I’m not going to lie,” Pondexter said. “Thanks to the guys in Memphis for looking out on that one.”
The Grizzlies did their part. Then, the Pelicans did theirs.
Eric Gordon scored 21 points, Tyreke Evans nearly had a triple-double and New Orleans gained ground in the playoff race by outlasting the short-handed Kings. The Pelicans (41-34) pulled within a half-game of Oklahoma City (42-34) after their fourth straight victory.
“We know where we are. We know what we want,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re playing for something bigger than all of us. And that’s a cool thing and that should be fun.”
Evans finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists against his former team. New Orleans led by 18 points in the third quarter and withstood a furious rally from DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings for a huge road victory.
Sacramento dropped its fourth game in a row despite Cousins’ second consecutive triple-double. The All-Star center had 24 points, 20 rebounds and a career-high 13 assists. He also blocked four shots.
“Teams are playing me so many weird ways whenever I catch the ball,” he said. “So I try not to force anything and get my teammates involved.”
Unfortunately for Cousins and the Kings, he had little help on the outside with forward Rudy Gay sitting out for the second straight game recovering from a concussion.
The Pelicans shot 14 of 29 from 3-point range, including a career-high six 3s by Pondexter, who had 18 points. New Orleans also outrebounded the Kings 50 to 38 behind Anthony Davis, Omir Asik and Evans.
Davis had 20 points and 10 boards. Asik added 11 rebounds.
“I thought that New Orleans showed their desperation and they know they have to win some games on the road,” Kings coach George Karl said. “They know this is one of those games that they have to go get to stay in the race with Oklahoma City.”
The Pelicans led 71-53 midway through the third quarter before Cousins and the Kings came roaring back with a 16-0 run. New Orleans seemed to recover with a quick burst to start the fourth, going ahead 87-78 with 8:45 to play.
But Cousins kept the Kings in the game with spectacular plays on both ends. He grabbed a rebound and found Omri Casspi running down court for a dunk that brought Sacramento within two with about 4 minutes to play.
Evans, the former NBA Rookie of the Year with the Kings, helped the Pelicans pull away when he beat Ray McCallum to the rim and converted a difficult layup before Cousins could rotate over. The basket gave New Orleans a 99-93 lead with 52.3 seconds to play, and New Orleans finished things off on free throws.