March 8, 2018, 12:18 am
The Pelicans were able to hold on for their 10th straight victory, taking down the Kings 114-101 on Wednesday night.
De’Aaron Fox scored the game’s first points but left after playing just five minutes with lower back stiffness. It was promptly announced that he wouldn’t return to the game.
The Pelicans’ offensive firepower was on display early on, jumping out to a 32-21 led after the first quarter. New Orleans shot 14-of-23 for 60.9 percent while the Kings struggled to find their offense out of the gate, shooting 8-of-26 for 30.8 percent. It was well-known coming in that this game would feature little defense and the first quarter solidified that assumption.
New Orleans managed to increase the deficit to as much as 20 during the second quarter, Nikola Mirotic leading the way with 13 points off the bench. The Pelicans ultimately held a 62-44 lead at the halftime break. They didn’t take their foot off the gas as far as shooting the ball either, shooting 5-of-11 from distance. The Pelicans’ nine first half turnovers weren’t doing them any favors, but luckily for the Kings it could have been much worse if that wasn’t the case.
Anthony Davis may have only had seven points through the first 24 minutes of the game, but his dominance on defense was restricting what Sacramento could do offensively. Davis had four blocks at halftime and he wasn’t done.
Davis came out in the third quarter and immediately swatted another shot, bringing his total to five. He also scored 10 points in the opening minutes before his night abruptly ended:
Anthony Davis has left the game after turning his ankle. pic.twitter.com/JQqhNiIQNA
— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) March 8, 2018
Despite Davis’ exit the deficit was too large for the Kings to get back into the game. When he left the game the Pelicans were up 20, a big enough cushion for them to hold on.
Through three quarters the Pelicans held a 85-67 advantage. They weren’t at their best tonight but they still showed enough coherency to get past the Kings who just couldn’t get it going offensively. Losing Fox early in the game and being without Willie Cauley-Stein certainly weighed on the Kings tonight so they’ll be hoping to have them back sooner rather than later.
Cauley-Stein is currently listed as day-to-day but he told sideline reporter Kayte Christensen that he’s hoping to play on Friday.
Willie Cauley-Stein (back) told @kayte_c that he hopes to be back for Friday vs. Orlando or ‘at the latest’ Sunday vs. Denver.
— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) March 8, 2018
Despite the uphill battle at hand, Sacramento managed to claw their way back into the game in the fourth. The youthful unit of Frank Mason, Buddy Hield, Bruno Caboclo, JaKarr Sampson and Skal Labissiere helped lift the energy in the building and they gave the Kings a chance, cutting the lead to as little as 9.
The Pelicans clearly struggled to produce consistent offense without their best player on the floor and the Kings were taking advantage of it. However, Mirotic and Holiday hit a pair of 3-pointers to essentially put it out of reach for Sacramento. Mirotic finished the game with 26 points and 10 rebounds on a tidy 10-of-12 shooting from the field (4-of-6 from three). Holiday added 23 points, eight assists and three steals on 9-of-17 shooting.
For the Kings, Buddy Hield led the way with 20 points and four 3-pointers. He was a little erratic tonight and took some questionable shots but he still turned in a solid performance. Zach Randolph continued his high level of play against the Pelicans, dropping 19 points in 26 minutes of work.
Fox’s absence opened up extended minutes for Frank Mason who responded well, tying a career-high with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He looked comfortable controlling the tempo of the game and made shots when needed. If Fox misses time he’ll be a more than serviceable option for Dave Joerger to turn to.
Bogdan Bogdanovic failed to score in his 26 minutes of action, shooting 0-of-6 from the floor. He didn’t seem to have many opportunities tonight and most of his shots came during isolation sets which generally don’t end great for many players. Don’t expect this to become a common occurrence, though.
Sacramento shot just 41.9 percent for the game which obviously didn’t help, especially when the opposing team shoots 56.6 percent and 42.3 percent from three. The Kings stumbled across a red-hot Pelicans squad and winning tonight was always going to be a tough task.
The Kings will round out the homestand against the Magic on Friday night before heading to Denver for a duel with the Nuggets on Sunday.