If you made it past halftime of Monday night’s Sacramento Kings-New Orleans Pelicans game, you deserve a medal. That’s because the first half reached a gouge-your-eyes-out level of bad with two losing teams shooting under 40 percent and 24 minutes completely dominated by intrusive referees. However, those who stuck it out were rewarded. Spurred by an energetic bench unit, the Kings seized control in the third quarter and made this one watchable. Aggressive play from the reserves was capped off by clutch shooting from the big guns, propelling Sacramento to a 96-89 victory over New Orleans.
THE GIFT OF REGGIE EVANS – Much like the Quincy Acy acquisition earlier in the year, the Kings have found yet another interior hustle guy who is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Reggie Evans (30 MIN, 10 PTS, 5-7 FG, 13 REB, 5 O-REB, 1 BLK) pumped life into a cold game, and that infectious energy ignited the entire Kings team. Evans’ relentless pursuit of rebounds is a given, and he kept at least handful of possessions alive against the Pelicans. But on Monday, Evans complemented his hustle with some offensive output. Surprisingly, the big man has shown decent touch around the basket, especially with the left hand. Against New Orleans, he positioned himself right near the basket and finished well. Guys who leave it all on the floor are loved in Sacramento, and fans had to be thankful that Evans added some entertainment into a dull game.
MCCALLUM TAKES ANOTHER STEP FORWARD – Evans was joined in his bench production by rookie Ray McCallum, who continues to show an increased comfort level with his expanded role. It’s easy to notice that McCallum (22 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-7 FG, 1-2 3FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 0 TO) has become much more aggressive offensively. Against the Pelicans, McCallum’s attacking of the basket helped spark the squad. His pretty left-handed lay-up plus the foul was one to remember. Defensively, McCallum continues to hold his own, even taking on the much stronger Tyreke Evans in the post. This is why you give guys like McCallum a legitimate opportunity. You never know when someone will emerge as a talent, and while McCallum is far from established, he’s really making the most of his chance so far.
THAT FIRST HALF, THOUGH – Unfortunately, a big part of this game was the disgusting start, and the Kings, Pelicans and refs contributed to an unwatchable game. The Kings added to the mess with a 38.7 percent shooting mark, 11 turnovers to just four assists and zero three-pointers. However, each team could be excused for their disjointed play because of the constant stream of whistles that took over the half. Seriously, Bill Kennedy and Bennie Adams must have been getting paid by the call. In 24 minutes, there were 27 fouls and 32 free throws. That’s terrible. There was absolutely no flow to the game, no enjoyment. The only bright side: a 40-38 Kings lead was the result.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – After the Kings bench kicked things off, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay delivered the nails to the Pelicans coffin. Isaiah (43 MIN, 22 PTS, 8-16 FG, 6-6 FT, 3 REB, 5 AST, 5 TO, 2 STL) made up for a 1-for-6 first half by scoring 18 in the second, delivering some clutch short jumpers to bury New Orleans. Gay (30 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-10 FG, 4-4 FT, 2 REB, 2 AST, 4 TO) had a quiet scoring night, but his run of 6 points in the final 1:24 of the third kept the ball rolling … DeMarcus Cousins’ attitude has been seriously tested since his return from suspension. Kudos to him for passing with flying colors. There were reasons for him to blow up against the Pelicans, including getting called for a foul while being clothes-lined. But DMC (28 MIN, 23 PTS, 5-13 FG, 13-16 FT, 12 REB, 1 AST, 6 TO) kept his cool. His play was sporadic, and he tried to do too much at times, but he battled hard and scored from the line … Derrick Williams (14 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-3 FG, 1 REB, 1 BLK, 1 TO) has returned to his invisible bench role. Finding a way to utilize his talents should be on Coach Michael Malone’s to-do list … Tyreke Evans made his second trip to Sacramento as a visitor, and he again played strong: 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists in 41 minutes as the starting small forward.