Okafor leads Pels with 21 in 112-106 loss to Kings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Harrison Barnes scored 25 points, including 12 in the third quarter, and the Sacramento Kings beat the New Orleans Pelicans 112-106 on Tuesday night.

The Kings earned their second win in the NBA restart — each over the Pelicans.

Barnes said the competition in the NBA bubble “is something we have to learn from.”

With both teams eliminated from the playoffs, among the top starters given the night off were Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson and Kings leading scorer De’Aaron Fox.

The Kings’ only win in their first six games in the restart was a 140-125 victory over the Pelicans on Thursday, when Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 35 points. Bogdanovic had 16 points in the rematch.

“Those games are really tough to play,” Bogdanovic said, adding “especially when both teams are eliminated. … For our team it was a huge win after a couple bad days and elimination.”

Jahlil Okafor led New Orleans with 21 points. Lonzo Ball added 16 points while making four 3-pointers.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Ball had his best game of the restart.

“The biggest thing was I thought Alonzo played well and was almost back to where he was before we had the hiatus,” Gentry said. “I thought that was important.”

New Orleans is 2-5 in the bubble.

The Pelicans led 49-42 before back-to-back jams by Harry Giles III highlighted the Kings’ 8-0 run in the second period.

After leading 62-61 at halftime, Sacramento pulled away in the third quarter, opening a 92-79 lead on Buddy Hield‘s 3-pointer. Barnes sank two 3s in the period.

New Orleans closed to 110-106 on Frank Jackson‘s short jumper with 31 seconds remaining. Nemanja Bjelica answered with two free throws.

DEFENSE A HIGHLIGHT

Kings coach Luke Walton said he saw long-awaited improvement on defense. He said it was especially encouraging after his team was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday.

“I thought we finally started playing some defense in the second half, which was good to see,” Walton said. “We’ve still got to be smarter about the way we’re playing but we at least showed some toughness and played with some grit in the second half. … I’m happy that they didn’t go the other direction.”

CONTRACT TIME

Jackson, who had 18 points, said he hopes to remain in New Orleans after his contract expires at the end of the season.

“We’ll see what happens but it would be a pleasure to come back and represent this awesome city I call home now,” Jackson said.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: Williamson watched from the sideline wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. He was listed as out due to a sore right knee. Williamson missed 44 games at the start of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on the knee and had the right leg wrapped in Sunday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Brandon Ingram (sore right knee) and Jrue Holiday (right elbow contusion) also were held out.

Kings: Kent Bazemore (sore left calf) missed his second straight game. Injuries also kept Richaun Holmes (hip) and Fox (shoulder) out of the game.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Play Orlando on Thursday night.

Kings: Play Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.