by Michael Martinez
picture credit USATSI
SACRAMENTO-I’m just as confused as the next person who watched tonight’s game against the Pelicans. The Kings looked dominate early on and played great basketball, however the team could not find a way to close out.
Turnovers and lackluster defense hurt this team especially down the stretch. After leading for the majority of the game, the Kings let a 17 point lead in the third quarter completely vanish. And while the Kings kept holding onto their lead, they let the Pelicans come back late and win the game, 115-112.
Out of the gate, both teams scored very quickly. Offense came in a hurry and the Kings started with a fast paced tempo. This allowed Sacramento to take the lead for most of the quarter, but the Pelicans never quit.
Up 27-20 with 3:35 left in the first quarter, the Kings allowed New Orleans to go for a 10-0 run that ended after Omri Casspi put back a lay up for the Kings’ first field goal in two plus minutes.. The Pelicans held a 30-29 lead, but Casspi knocked a pair of free throws to regain the lead. The Pelicans would finish the quarter with the lead after Alonzo Gee made a layup and was fouled with .3 seconds in the quarter. Gee made the free throw to put the Kings at a disadvantage after one, 33-31.
DeMarcus Cousins and Norris Cole put on a scoring frenzy for their respective teams. Cousins finished with 13 points and Cole scored 14 for team highs. The Pelicans shot 56% from the field, but their seven turnovers allowed the Kings to keep it close. Rajon Rondo added five points and five assists with Rudy Gay scoring seven.
The second consisted of a lot of scoring runs. New Orleans started it off with a 6-0 run, 9-0 continuing from the first quarter. But the Kings were able to hit a 9-0 run of their own. Again, the Pelicans scored 5 straight to take a 44-40 lead.
Sacramento once again answered with an 11-0 run to lead 51-44. Jrue Holiday stopped the run with a lay up but the Kings kept their scoring up. The Pelicans turnovers really cost them. Their 15 first half turnovers led to 18 Kings’ points. The Kings largest lead in the quarter was 15 and Sacramento would hold a 63-50 lead heading into the locker room.
Cousins held a game high with 23 points in the first quarter and tallied nine rebounds. The Kings shot at 54.2% in the half as they dominate the second quarter with their uptempo offense.
The third quarter is where things changed. Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry picked up a technical before the third started. Gay hit the free throw for a 14 point lead before any time came off the clock.
Anthony Davis was dominate and chipped away at the Kings’ early 17 point lead. Davis kept the Pelicans right in the game in the third and the score was 89-83 after three. Cousins was once again phenomenal but Sacramento had seven turnovers in the third, which led to eight Pelicans’ points. The turnovers allowed the Pelicans to hang around even after the Kings had been up by so much.
The Pelicans started the final quarter with a 6-0 run to tie it up at 89. The Kings answered right back with an 8-0 run to go back up, 97-89. Sacramento was unable to figure out a way to close out the resilient Pelicans. The turnovers cost Sacramento again as they gave the ball away seven more times in the fourth quarter.
Holiday was huge for the Pelicans with nine fourth quarter points. With a little under two and a half to play, the Kings had a 108-106 lead. Cousins knocked down a pair of shots at the charity stripe to go up 110-106. Davis had dunk to keep the game within two.
With a under a minute remaining, the Pelicans had the ball. The Kings left Dante Cunningham wide open for a three and the forward nailed the jumper. The Pelicans took the lead 111-110. Holiday came up big as he knocked down a shot after a Sacramento miss to put the lead up to three.
Out of the timeout with 12.8 to go, Gay was able to score a quick two. Cole was then fouled and made both free throws. Darren Collison rushed to bring the ball up court and lost it to Holiday who let time expire.
Cousins was his usual self, scoring 40 points and grabbing 16 boards. Rondo had a nice game with 18 points, 10 assists but the point guard had five turnovers. Gay added a double double as well with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Kings shot the ball at a great 49.4 shooting percentage from the field but 24 total turnovers led to 22 points for New Orleans. Davis had 31 points and 10 rebounds. The backcourt duo of Cole and Holiday was key to the Pelicans success. Cole totaled 23 points and Holiday scored 20 while adding 10 assists for the double double.
After looking to have a sure win, the Kings will need to regroup and figure out how to close out games. This is the Kings’ second consecutive loss after losing to San Antonio on Saturday.
The Kings will take on the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 p.m. at Arco Arena.