ORLANDO, Fla. — The New Orleans Pelicans today are not the team center DeMarcus Cousins expects them to be a month from now.
They will be considerably better, he promised Friday night.
The Pelicans snapped a two-game losing streak and evened their record (16-16) by pounding the hapless Orlando Magic, 111-97, providing a glimpse of what Cousins expects to see in the future.
“We’re not a .500 team. We’re not. Our goals are a lot higher,” Cousins said confidently. “We’re on the right path, but we’re still learning each other, still finding our way. With some consistency, we can become a top team.”
Cousins led the Pelicans on Friday with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Forward Anthony Davis had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Jrue Holiday 24 points and three steals.
The Big Three did as they pleased for much of the night, combining to make 29 of 45 shots.
They led from start to finish and never were seriously challenged in the second half. They led by as many as 27 points before coasting home in the final few minutes.
“We got back on track tonight, and when we play like this, we’re tough to beat,” Davis said. “The chemistry was there.”
The Magic (11-22) lost their seventh consecutive game. It was the third consecutive game in which they never led.
Jonathon Simmons led the Magic with 22 points and eight rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and eight rebounds. Elfrid Payton scored 18 points with six assists. Mario Hezonja scored 11 points in reserve.
“They just outplayed us,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve got to play the whole game better. You spend so much time focusing on Cousins and Davis and you realize they’ve got an All-Star level point guard (Holiday), really two All-Star level point guards (Rajon Rondo) in the starting lineup.”
It was the first time in the last 13 games the Pelicans held a team under 100 points.
The Pelicans shot 50 percent (43 of 86) from the field and held a 48-40 rebound advantage.
“I thought defensively, we were really good for most of the game,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We did a good job with the turnovers, which didn’t compromise our defense. That’s been a problem for us.”
The Pelicans had 15 turnovers that became just 12 Magic points.
The Magic never got closer than 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Holiday scored 14 in the third period, leading the Pelicans to an 88-72 lead going into the final period. The Magic had cut the deficit to seven early in the third period but Holiday responded by hitting a 3-pointer.
“It’s frustrating,” Vucevic said. “Tonight, our defense wasn’t there. Hopefully, we can get out of this soon. We just weren’t good enough. They scored on us a lot of different ways.”
The Pelicans led 60-50 at halftime after Davis and Cousins had 18 and 15 points, respectively.
New Orleans opened the game by scoring the first nine points and led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter.
Payton had 16 points by halftime when he hit seven of eight shots. The Magic’s frustrations were obvious early with four technical fouls in the first half, assessed against coach Frank Vogel, Payton, Marreese Speights and Bismack Biyombo.
The Magic last held a lead on Dec. 15, when they were ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers 13-12 with 4:35 to go in the first quarter.
NOTES: This was the 11th time this season that Cousins and Davis each had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Magic, who play Saturday night in Washington, still are without Evan Fournier (sprained right ankle) and Aaron Gordon (strained right calf), their two leading scorers. ... The Pelicans, who play Saturday in Miami, entered Friday night with the third-longest streak in franchise history of allowing opponents to score 100 or more points. ... Magic F Marreese Speights, who hit six 3-pointers as a reserve against the Pelicans in October, got his first start of the season Friday night. ... G D.J. Augustin and G Elfrid Payton, Magic starters, grew up in the New Orleans area. ... The Magic beat the Pelicans by 16 points in New Orleans.