Two unlikely players played key roles as the New Orleans Pelicans ended a four-game losing streak Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.
Tyreke Evans had 25 points and 10 assists, and Anthony Davis had 24 points, nine rebounds and six blocks as the Pelicans posted a much-needed 102-88 victory.
But the play of backup point guards Norris Cole and Toney Douglas proved extra effective. Cole scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and Douglas had five points and five assists. Their defense and control of the pace disrupted the Kings and helped result in easy baskets for a team that had struggled to score.
“Both of us are good on-ball defenders,” Cole said. “We played together in Miami as well. We were able to do that in Miami, too — speed the game up a little bit. It was good for our team.”
Guard/forward Quincy Pondexter, who backed up Evans and Davis with 16 points, including 4-of-8 3-point shooting, said, “We just fed off the energy from those guys.”
The win was the first for the Pelicans (38-34) since St. Patrick’s Day and put them three games behind eighth-place Oklahoma City with 10 games to go. OKC plays at Utah on Saturday; the Pelicans host Minnesota on Sunday.
The Pelicans ended a four-game winning streak by the Kings (26-46) under George Karl, their third coach this season. It gave New Orleans a 2-1 season edge, with a final meeting in Sacramento on April 3.
The Pelicans won by keeping their turnovers down, getting 12 after averaging nearly six more per game during the losing streak.
And they held to 88 points a team that had averaged 106.3 during its winning streak.
The Pelicans shot 51.2 percent, their best in seven games.
“We you lose four in a row, it doesn’t matter how you lose those games, it feels like an eternity before you get another win,” coach Monty Williams said. “So, great defensive effort, great team effort. We have to bottle this up and bring on Sunday (vs. Minnesota).”
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins had 39 points and 20 rebounds, including eight offensive. But he had just five points and one rebound when the Pelicans seized control in the third quarter.
The Pelicans pulled away in the fourth and sealed the victory by getting back to what got them in control in the second. Behind Cole and Douglas, they started the fourth with a 14-4 run to take an 88-70 lead.
“Cole came in and his quickness gave us issues,” Karl said. “We just seemed a step behind. We struggled with our flow, but credit the Pelicans and how they defended.”
In a 1 minute, 21-second span, Douglas made a 3, stole an inbounds pass that led to Dante Cunnigham’s dunk at 8:49 and drove on the break as the Pelicans took an 18-point lead.
Sacramento followed with a seven-point spurt to cut it to 88-77. But Davis hit two baskets and Evans made a jump shot on the way to a 95-82 margin with 4:02 left.
The Pelicans took control in the third as Cousins was held to five points on 2-of-6 shooting after he had scored 23 in the first half. Three of his points in the third came in the last 41.7 seconds. But the Kings, out of flow by the Pelicans defense, committed four turnovers in the quarter. (They had 11 in the game.)
Davis and Evans scored 10 points each as the Pelicans increased a four-point halftime lead to 74-66 by the end of the third. Evans, whose drives are usually what propel the Pelicans to victories against the Kings, was consistent with his outside shot.
“It’s tough enough keeping him out of the lane,” Cousins said, “but if he’s hitting jump shots, (he’s) top of the league.”
Unlike their previous five games, when the Pelicans got off to a good start only to see the opponent come back, New Orleans trailed 20-18 at the end of the first quarter, with Cousins scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
But Cole and Douglas entered in the second quarter, and the faster pace resulted in the Kings missing four of their first six shots with one turnover as New Orleans led 34-28 after a 3 by Pondexter.
By the 2:40 mark, the Pelicans had outrebounded Sacramento 14-3 in the quarter and held it to 5-of-15 shooting.
Pondexter and Evans then hit consecutive 3s, producing a 46-36 lead with 2:02 left. New Orleans led 46-42 at halftime.