Pelicans Top Kings, Control Own Playoff Fate
With 7 games left in the regular season, the New Orleans Pelicans (41-34) now control their own playoff fate after grinding out a 101-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
New Orleans now trails Oklahoma City (42-34) by only a half game in the Western Conference standings, with both squads being even in the loss column. The Pelicans own the tiebreaker over OKC, giving them control of their playoff destiny.
"This is when it gets fun," said Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis of the upcoming stretch. "This is a fun time of basketball for us, knowing we're in a good (playoff) race."
Davis missed a chunk of the first half with foul trouble, but remained aggressive throughout the contest, finishing with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Joining Davis in the frontcourt was center Omer Asik, who had the difficult task of guarding Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
"Omer did a great job on Cousins," said Davis of his teammate. "He told us he was going to come in and defend DeMarcus and he did a good job of it tonight."
Cousins put up monster numbers (24 points, 20 rebounds), but Asik made it hard at times. Of Cousins' 20 rebounds, all were on the defensive end, as Asik protected the Pelicans defensive glass against one of the NBA's best big men.
"Omer was fabulous down the stretch," said New Orleans head coach Monty Williams. "His defense on DeMarcus, rebounding the ball, getting deflections, a steal, and getting it done in the trenches. He earned his money, that's for sure."
In the scoring department, New Orleans was led by Eric Gordon (21 points), who nailed 4 three pointers. Quincy Pondexter was even better from beyond the arc, hitting a career-high 6 triples, finishing with 18 points.
New Orleans guard Tyreke Evans was an assist shy of a triple-double (19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) against his former team, hitting a layup in major traffic in the final two minutes of a closely contested game.
The Pelicans jumped out to an 18 points lead in the third quarter before Sacramento went on a 16-0 run, threatening to take the lead several times down the stretch.
"We stayed together and stayed poised," noted Davis. "We came out with the win."
New Orleans ends their west coast road trip Saturday night in Portland against the Trail Blazers. Tip-off is set for 9:00.