Mar 31, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Reggie Evans (30) grabs the ball in front of New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) in the second half at the Smoothie King Center. Sacramento defeated New Orleans 102-97. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Double-doubles from Cousins, McCallum push Kings past Pelicans

Mar 31, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) is defended by New Orleans Pelicans forward Tyreke Evans (1) in the second quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The opportunities for road victories are dwindling for the Sacramento Kings, and a banged-up New Orleans Pelicans squad provided a solid test for Sacramento on Monday. With Isaiah Thomas out and Rudy Gay working through a bothersome foot, it appeared the Kings victory hopes would be placed squarely on the back of DeMarcus Cousins. And then that quiet, second-rounder from Detroit emerged yet again. Ray McCallum picked up the torch that Cousins carried through the third quarter and buried the Pelicans with a terrific fourth. The Kings turned up the defense late and left with a 102-97 win.

THE POWER OF COUSINS – The opponent was no pushover for DeMarcus Cousins. Anthony Davis and the surprisingly solid Jeff Withey provided ample resistance to the Kings big man. But on this night, neither could handle the talents of Cousins. DeMarcus (37 MIN, 35 PTS, 13-18 FG, 9-12 FT, 14 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK, 3 TO) was on a mission to destroy the Pelicans, and that involved powering his way to the basket at any opportunity. The beautiful thing about Cousins’ game was that he overpowered New Orleans, yet he rarely got out of control. All his moves at the rim were calculated and effective. His 16 third-quarter points really swung momentum in the Kings favor and set the tone for the rest of the game. Cousins was too much for the Pelicans to handle all night.

ROOKIE RISING – Ray McCallum made his fourth straight start, and the rookie gets better every game. McCallum’s confidence is sky high, and clearly his own play and the support of his teammates is the reason. Ray Mac (44 MIN, 22 PTS, 9-19 FG, 3-5 FT, 10 AST, 2 REB, 2 STL, 1 TO) was a facilitator early, efficiently working the ball around to his hotter teammates. But when the opportunity presented itself for McCallum to showcase his own offense, the rook didn’t back down. McCallum found a zone, scoring 10 points in the final frame. This included a stretch of eight straight Kings points starting at the 6:26 mark. McCallum led the team in shot attempts, showing just how much confidence he has. It’s been a joy to watch this guy play — he bided his time, stayed focus, worked his tail off and he’s making the most of his newfound court time.

KINGS GET AGGRESSIVE – Perhaps it was the play of Cousins and McCallum that inspired the rest of the Kings roster. Everyone seemed to have a bounce in their step, an air of determination to get the victory. Ben McLemore (38 MIN, 14 PTS, 5-11 FG, 1-4 3FG, 5 REB, 1 BLK, 4 TO) was spotty with the outside shot, but he aggressively ran the floor and battled defensively. Reggie Evans (23 MIN, 3 PTS, 12 REB, 1 STL), before being wrongfully ejected for an offensive elbow to Anthony Davis, was again a pest (in a good way), attacking the glass and badgering Pelicans frontcourt players. Quincy Acy (18 MIN, 5 REB, 4 O-REB, 1 STL) made his mark in short time, going after offensive boards and loose balls. Sacramento outrebounded New Orleans 47-30, including an amazing 15-3 advantage on the offensive glass. The Kings had the energy and worked hard for the win.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS – Jared Cunningham made his Kings debut, spelling McCallum for four minutes in the first half. The young guard certainly had the energy and scored his only basket on a fallaway jumper after corralling an offensive rebound … Travis Outlaw’s hot hand disappeared, and he failed to make an impact in this one, hitting just 1-for-6 from the field … The Kings bench as a whole scored just six points … Tyreke Evans was productive, but he only played 26 minutes as Monty Williams went to his bench for long stretches. Evans scored 15 points on 15 shots … You gotta love Isaiah Thomas. Sitting on the sideline isn’t his thing. The Kings injured leader was up the whole game, cheering on his mates, joking with Coach Michael Malone and providing words of encouragement. He’s gotta come back next year.

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