NEW ORLEANS – By drubbing the Sacramento Kings 117-89 on Friday night, the New Orleans Pelicans improved their record to 33-43 on the season. The victory was eighth in their last 11 games.
It was a dominant performance by the Pelicans over a young Kings team. New Orleans scored 60 points in the paint and outscored Sacramento by 17 on the fast break. The Pelicans also collected a season-high 17 steals and scored a season-high 36 points off 22 Kings turnovers.
The Kings were also the third team in the last six games to score 90 points or less against the Pelicans’ defense. Sacramento shot 39 percent for the game, including 6-for-19 on three point attempts.
“We’ve been really good,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “Our perimeter defense has been really good. I think Jrue (Holiday) has really stepped up his defense and done a good job. And then Solomon (Hill) has really been that way the whole year. But we’ve also had guys that come in, you know E’Twaun’s (Moore) done a good job. So, in general we’ve done a good job.”
But the biggest winner was DeMarcus Cousins. The centerpiece of the deadline deal between these two teams, Cousins scored 37 points, pulled down 13 boards while adding four assists, three steals and two blocked shots for good measure.
For Boogie, it was just another day at the office…sort of.
“It was just another chance to come out here and play hard, get a win, and just get better as a team,” Cousins said smiling as he repeated his remarks from prior to the game regarding his feelings towards facing his former franchise.
No matter what Cousins thought, his team was more than willing to help him shine against Sacramento.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to say this is just another game,” added Gentry. “I wanted him to play well against them. I did. And he did everything we asked him to do.”
“He downplayed (his excitement), but we all know how hyped up he was for this game,” said Anthony Davis. “Most importantly, we’re just happy that we came out with the win.”
The win was basically claimed by halftime. Davis, who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, set the tone early with his 30th double-digit first quarter of the season. AD posted 11 points in the period, with Cousins adding 12 of his own, as the Pels took a 32-19 lead after the opening frame.
New Orleans led by 20 at the half, and aside from some spotty play in the third quarter, the game was never in doubt.
Cousins made sure of that with an 18-point fourth quarter where he made 5-of-9 shots, including two of his career-high tying five three-pointers, all in just under nine minutes of action.
On a night when Anthony Davis became the first player in franchise history to score 2,000 points in a season, Cousins was the headline, the main story and the back page all at once.
“I thought he was great during the first period when we needed to get a boost offensively,” added Gentry. “And then I thought that he did a great job of taking shots and being selective in what he does. Obviously, in this situation when you get up, you give him a little more freedom than you normally would. But I thought he played great.”
Cousins, for his part, tried to remain focused on the task of helping his team win rather than allow himself to get caught up in the emotions of facing his former teammates.
“I made sure not to come in and make this about me,” he said. “My biggest fear was coming in and doing that and coming out with a loss, and that would have been terrible, so I was just happy that we came out with a lot of energy.”
“We set the tone ear, and we just played the right type of basketball throughout the night, so I’m happier about that than any other stuff.”
As are Pelicans fans, as they enjoy the best basketball their team has played all season. After the initial rough spots, it appears that New Orleans has started to figure out its new identity. The rest of the league is taking notice as well.
“DeMarcus and AD, they can be good for a very long time,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “They present a lot of problems, not only for us; they present a lot of problems for the whole entire league. You’ve kind of got to pick your poison. If it’s Anthony Davis, he can take you off the dribble. He’s a good mid-range shooter as well. DeMarcus, you know he is a jack of all trades. They are going to be good for a long time. You definitely have to limit some of the other players on their team, because they are going to get theirs.”
Even more encouraging for Pelicans fans is that Davis and Cousins are getting closer, and making each other better.
“Now that we’re on the same team, we just try to take bits and pieces of each other’s games and try to add it to ours to make us even more effective,” added Davis. “He’s a great player and can do a lot of things on both ends of the floor and I just try to learn from him.”
“I think I’m in a special situation,” Cousins said. “To be able to learn from my partner-in-crime and vice versa, I don’t think there are a lot of guys that can actually do that. I think me and AD still have a lot of room to grow as players and just to be able to grow together and learn from one another at the same time, I think that’s a special combination.”
The more the Pelicans play this way, the more people are going to be convinced that “Boogie and the Brow” are right. Time, as they say, will tell. But for now, the Pelicans have “Boogie Fever” and there doesn’t seem to be a cure (not even more cowbell).