After blowing huge leads in back-to-back games, the Sacramento Kings took care of business against the defending champs.
They’ll try to make it two in a row Tuesday night against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, losers of three straight in the series.
The Kings (6-4) led by as many as 26 before coming undone in Thursday’s 111-110 loss at Memphis, but they bounced back with Saturday’s 94-91 win over San Antonio.
Sacramento, which also blew a 24-point lead in last Tuesday’s 106-98 loss at Dallas, has not won four straight at home since Dec. 19-30, 2012.
"To be honest, we were a little down about the last game. This was a huge win. We’re maturing as a team and not worrying about the past and thinking about the present," point guard Darren Collison said. "We’re not satisfied. We’re still hungry for more. We still feel like we can improve in a lot of different areas."
DeMarcus Cousins had 25 points and 10 rebounds while Collison and Rudy Gay scored a combined 37. Sacramento held a 58-34 edge in the paint and scored 16 points off 14 turnovers.
"If we don’t play defense, it’s going to be tough for us to win," said Collison, who is averaging 1.9 steals. "We’re laying our hats on the defensive end. We have good offensive players, but at the same time we want to be one of the best defensive teams when it’s all said and done."
The Kings are also getting to the line early and often. They’re averaging an NBA-leading 35.1 free-throw attempts per game while shooting 81.2 percent, among the league’s best marks.
"We want to have an attack mindset," coach Michael Malone said. "We always talk to our players about playing in an attack mode – don’t settle and put pressure on the defense. I think it’s really important because that allows us to set our defense."
Gay, fresh off signing a $40 million, three-year extension Sunday, is averaging a team-leading 22.5 points – up from his career mark of 18.3. Cousins is right behind him at 22.4 while Collison ranks third with 15.8 per game.
The Kings have held the Pelicans to an average of 94.3 points during their winning streak in the series. Gay is averaging 25.7 points on 52.8 percent shooting in those games and scored a career high-tying 41 in a 114-97 road win Jan. 21.
The Pelicans (5-4) opened a four-game trek with Monday’s 102-93 loss at Portland. Anthony Davis filled the box score with 31 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks, but New Orleans shot 4 of 24 while getting outscored 34-13 in the fourth quarter.
"We’ve got to play better with the lead," Davis said. "We were kind of forcing up shots instead of settling the ball down."
Davis leads the NBA with 4.0 blocks per game and ranks third with averages of 25.2 points and 11.7 boards. He’s averaging 16.6 points in seven games against the Kings while shooting 44.0 percent, his lowest mark against any Western Conference club he’s faced more than twice.
The third-year forward also will face a formidable challenge attempting to reach his scoring average against the Kings, who have tied a shot clock-era record by not letting any opposing player score 25 or more points in the first 10 games.
Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who spent his first four seasons with Sacramento, averaged 26.0 points, 10.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds in his first two games back there last season.
The Pelicans are 1-3 on the road while averaging 96.3 points, significantly lower than their home mark of 110.6.