Kings, Pelicans looking to turn season around
SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings took just enough encouragement from a win on the final day of a long road trip to provide comfort that their season may begin to turn around now that they get to hang out at home for a while.
Their first visitor is a New Orleans Pelicans team dealing with a campaign that seems to be spinning out of control already.
The Pelicans, fresh off their seventh consecutive loss to start the season, roll into Golden 1 Center on Tuesday night. They bring with them a six-game winning streak against the host Kings, but that's about the only positive thing on their end.
Sacramento hasn't had many high moments in the season's first two weeks, but a win in the finale of a five-game road trip was one of them. The Kings' 96-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday prevented a winless trek on their five-game roadie, the team's first of the year.
“Much needed,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins called it. “It was a confidence boost and a momentum boost.”
Now they begin a stretch in which seven of their next eight are at home, with coach Dave Joerger hoping his team's defense against the Raptors is an indicator of things to come. The Kings held Toronto to 36 percent shooting and turned around the game by holding the Raptors to only 16 third-quarter points while surrendering a season-low 91.
That effort came after Sacramento allowed an average of 108.3 points in the first four games of the trip, including a season-high 117 in a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday. Sacramento, which finished last in the NBA allowing 109.1 points per game a season ago, was 15th (102.9) through their first six games this season.
“We did what we're hoping to make our identity throughout the course of the year,” Joerger said. “That's getting after people defensively.”
Offensively, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins still provides the biggest production. His 25.5-point scoring average ranked ninth in the NBA through Sunday, and he also was averaging 9.1 rebounds, good for 19th. He clobbered the Pelicans in both categories a season ago, averaging 29.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in four games against them.
The Kings didn't win any of them, however. New Orleans hasn't lost to Sacramento since Nov. 25, 2014.
Continuing that success would be a welcome development for head coach Alvin Gentry, whose team's season-opening seven-game skid is one longer than a season ago. The Pelicans overcame a 21-point deficit at Golden State on Monday before losing 116-106. That loss followed two straight overtime defeats.
As Gentry tries to hold his team together, its season appears to be crumbling. The Pelicans already were without guards Jrue Holiday (personal reasons), Tyreke Evans (right knee) and Quincy Poindexter (left knee), when they lost guard Lance Stephenson to a groin injury last week.
New Orleans released Stephenson on Monday and signed guard Archie Goodwin to replace him.
“I don't know what to say. It just sucks,” center Anthony Davis said of New Orleans' early struggles. “We've got to keep fighting. Just keep fighting and find a way to win.”
Center Anthony Davis hasn't been the problem. He finished Monday's game against the Warriors averaging 30.4 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. Davis has tallied 30 percent of New Orleans' points and 28 percent of their boards.
The Kings' chances depend on stopping him. Davis, now in his third year out of Kentucky — the same college Cousins attended — averaged a team-high 27.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in three games against Sacramento a season ago.
Sacramento will welcome back point guard Darren Collison after his eight-game suspension for a domestic violence incident.