Cousins delivers for Pelicans in return to Sacramento
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- DeMarcus Cousins peaked his head out from the training room in the New Orleans Pelicans’ locker room, saw the circle of media several rows deep and shook his head.
“This is crazy,” he said.
Indeed, the only thing crazier than the reception for Cousins’ return to Sacramento on Thursday was his in-game performance.
The New Orleans big man, in his first game back in the city where he spent the first 6 1/2 seasons of his career, scored 41 points, grabbed 23 rebounds, dished out six assists and buried a key 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to lift the Pelicans to a 114-106 victory over the Kings on Thursday night.
“The anticipation was really through the roof,” Cousins said when it was over. “I really couldn’t wait for the ball to go up.”
Once it did, the evening did not proceed as smoothly immediately as Cousins hoped. The Kings ran out to a 17-4 lead out of the gate en route to a 19-point lead early in the third quarter.
However, Cousins proved a force from the beginning, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the opening half, and the Pelicans finally bounced back in the second half.
For his part, Cousins became the first player since Chris Webber on Jan. 5, 2001, to tally at least 40 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a game against the Kings.
“I‘m just glad we got a win, honestly,” Cousins said. “We had a chance in our last one and kind of fumbled it away. This is a good step. Tough win, tough environment.”
A sellout crowd of 17,583, the 43rd in 43 regular-season contests at the Golden 1 Center, the Kings’ second-year home, greeted Cousins warmly with a nice ovation before the game. Sacramento traded the controversial center at the All-Star break last season for guard Buddy Hield, two other players and two draft picks that turned into current rookies Justin Jackson and Frank Mason.
“I loved it,” Cousins said. “I’ve got nothing but love for this city.”
Jrue Holliday added 20 points for New Orleans (2-3), and Jameer Nelson kicked in 18.
But the story was Cousins, who kick-started a 32-12 fourth-quarter blitz that erased Sacramento’s 75-56 lead, then hit the big shots at the end.
“He was dominant in every phase of the game,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “His rebounding, the points he put up, the passes that he made. He did a good job of just maintaining what was going on in the court. I mean, these people love him here. You saw the ovation he got and the response he got when they put him on the (scoreboard).”
Sacramento (1-4) initially slowed Cousins’ triumphant return, jumping to the 13-point lead barely five minutes into the contest. The Kings maintained their lead until late in the third quarter, when a Holiday 3-pointer put the Pelicans ahead 80-79.
The teams stayed close to each other after that. The Kings used a brief spurt that featured center Willie Cauley-Stein’s jumper that went in after bouncing high off the back iron and his layup off an alley-oop from George Hill to go ahead 106-105 with 2:36 left.
But Cousins canned a 3-pointer from the top of the right arc on New Orleans’ next possession, then two possessions later cut through the lane, took a feed from Nelson and dunked for a 112-106 lead, effectively ending the contest.
“He played poised, he played with a chip on his shoulder like he always plays,” Hield said. “He made plays. Congrats to him and the Pelicans on a great team win.”
Rookie De‘Aaron Fox scored 14 points to pace the Kings, who received points from all 11 players who suited up. Zach Randolph finished with 13 points, Cauley-Stein and Hield added 12, and Skal Labissiere scored 11 for Sacramento.
NOTES: New Orleans F Anthony Davis has not made it through the first three weeks of the regular season without missing at least one game in three straight seasons. Davis averaged 24.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his four games this season, totals that include only 5 minutes of action before he injured his left knee against Portland. ... C Zach Randolph played his first home game for the Kings after sitting out the season opener last week. He received a hearty ovation. Randolph signed with Sacramento as a free agent after seven seasons in Memphis. ... G Darius Miller, who replaced Davis, made his first start in the NBA since Nov. 25, 2014, and played six scoreless minutes. He spent two seasons playing overseas. ... The Kings scored 40 points in the opening quarter for the first time since November 2015 against Indiana.