Pelicans blow lead late to lose in overtime to lowly Kings, 116-109

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NEW ORLEANS — In what can only be characterized as their most embarrasing loss of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans squandered a nine-point lead over the final 3:32 of regulation and lost to the Sacramento Kings in overtime, 116-109.

It was the Pels’ fifth loss in their last seven games.

DeMarcus Cousins led the Pelicans with 38 points and 11 rebounds, but shot just 5-of-16 in the second half and overtime and committed eight turnovers.

Anthony Davis had 18 points and six boards in 30 minutes as he returned from two-game absence due to a hip injury.

Zach Randolph scored 35 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds to lead the Kings.

It was a stunning collapse for the Pelicans, who fell to 13-13 on the season and 1-2 on their current four-game homestand. The Kings entered the game 7-17 on the season, including just 3-11 on the road.

But the Pelicans have been quite welcoming for teams looking for a road win. New Orleans is 6-7 at the Smoothie King Center after Friday’s debacle.

Head Coach Alvin Gentry made no excuses for his team’s performance in his very short remarks after the game.

“They outplayed us in every phase of the game,” said Gentry. “You either want it or you don’t. That’s the bottom line. You either want to be good or you don’t. Or you can do what we did. But you have to play for 48 minutes.”

“Just because [the Kings’] record is what it is, we’re supposed to take for granted that they’re not gonna play? If you don’t get in and dig in and compete at the level you’re supposed to, this is what happens.”

The Pelicans took a 53-47 lead into the half behind Cousins’ 24 points and five rebounds. New Orleans still held an 82-77 advantage after three quarters, but in the final 12 minutes of regulation, the Pelicans lost their way, their lead, and ultimately, the game.

New Orleans committed five turnovers and shot 8-for-20 in the fourth, but was still up nine after Anthony Davis’ turnaround jumper with 3:32 remaining. Surprisingly, it would be AD’s last basket of the game.

Buddy Hield, the former Pelicans guard who was part of the Cousins trade last season, heated up for Sacramento. He knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to five,100-95, with just under two minutes to go. After an E’Twaun Moore miss, Hield scored again on a reverse lay-up to bring the Kings within three.
That bucket was followed by a missed three-pointer by Cousins, who went 1-6 in the fourth (0-2 from distance). Frank Mason would grab the rebound for the visitors and then Zach Randolph would beat Cousins on the baseline for another score to shrink the lead to one.

Cousins would momentarily stave off the Kings with a dunk, but Hield had the answer as he buried his fourth three of the game to tie the score at 102 and send the game into overtime. Hield had 18 points off the bench, outscoring the entire Pelicans second unit. Sacramento’s bench held a 53-16 advantage at game’s end.

“We came down and took some quick shots, we didn’t really execute,” said Ian Clark, one of the team’s few bright spots. Clark had 15 points in 28 minutes. “You can’t let your guard down and I feel like we did that.”

Randolph made back-to-back threes to open the overtime period to put the Kings ahead 108-105, giving him five for the game and setting a new career-high for the 35 year old. It was a lead that Sacramento would not relinquish.

“We gave this team life,” said Cousins. “We had plenty of opportunities to just put the game away and we just wouldn’t put our foot on that pedal full throttle. With that being said, they kicked our ass.”

“We gotta go out and compete every night and I don’t think we came out and competed tonight at all.”

The Pelicans had problems across the board. New Orleans had only 19 assists and turned it over 17 times, ending a streak of 21 consecutive games with at least 20 dimes. New Orleans’ backcourt had one of its worst games of the season, with Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and Jameer Nelson combining for 25 points on 11-29 shooting.

Sacramento pounded the Pelicans on the glass, outrebounding the home team 46-35. But particularly perplexing was the team’s inability to get the ball to Anthony Davis. Davis took only 12 shots all game long and didn’t take any over the game’s final eight and a half minutes. There were several possessions where the team’s franchise player didn’t even touch the ball.

“If we want to be the team that we talking about being, we gotta come out and do it, we gotta come out and show it,” said Cousins. “We just can’t continue to talk about it. Tonight we weren’t the team we wanna be.”

While the Pelicans currently sit tied for eighth place in the Western Conference, their grip on a playoff spot is getting more slippery than a wet bar of soap. With the Philadelphia 76ers coming to town on Sunday, followed by a trip to Houston to face the Rockets, and then games against Milwaukee, Denver, and Washington; New Orleans could find itself falling farther behind the conference leaders very quickly.

Rajon Rondo’s return didn’t solve the Pelicans’ problems. Neither has the play of Davis and Cousins. It’s abundantly clear that 26 games into the season, the New Orleans Pelicans are just an average NBA team. That’s not “doing it big” by any stretch.

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David Grubb

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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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