Pelicans seek to halt losing skid at Kings

The last time the Pelicans ventured to Sacramento to play the Kings, New Orleans was on a four-game losing streak during a difficult Western Conference holiday road trip.

However, former Kings player Tyreke Evans came to the rescue with a big game — 25 points and 12 assists — and the Pelicans headed home two days before Christmas with a victory.

The Pelicans (23-36) again are in Sacramento, where they play the Kings (20-39) on Monday night, the fourth game of their five-game Mardi Gras road trip. This time, New Orleans has lost seven games in a row, and its defensive struggles of late seem to have seeped over to offense.

On his last trip to Sacramento, Evans had come back from an ankle injury two games before. This time, he is coming off a rib injury that limited him to 28 points in four games before the Pelicans embarked on this road trip five days ago.

“The rib is fine,” Evans said. “I’m OK. We just have to find a way to get a win on this road trip.”

Evans, a guard/forward, has being trying to do his part. Coach Monty Williams started him at small forward two games ago, at Phoenix on Friday, to get more scoring into the lineup.

Evans responded with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. He had three consecutive drives for baskets in a minute and a half that gave the Pelicans a 75-66 third-quarter lead.

The next night, at the Los Angeles Clippers, Evans, again starting, had 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists, one of the few bright spots for the Pelicans, and that coming after being stuck in an elevator for an hour.

This game against the Kings will be the first of consecutive back-to-back road games, with the Pelicans playing at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

This part of the schedule appears to be a reprieve when compared to the first three games. The Kings, for instance, have lost seven in a row. And, the Lakers have lost seven of their past nine and 14 of 17. The Suns and Lakers were tied for last place in the Pacific Division heading into Monday’s games.

However, the Kings defeated the Pelicans by 17 points on Jan. 21 at Smoothie King Center, with forward Rudy Gay leading the way with a career-high-tying 41 points. Coach Monty Williams said he was disappointed by the effort in that one by the Pelicans, who are last in the Southwest Division.

“We can’t just show up,” Williams said. “We’re not the type of team that can just put our jerseys on and step onto the floor. We have to go out and play with a high level of energy.”

The Lakers, who are on pace to have the worst record since the franchise moved from Minneapolis in 1960, are coming off a 126-122 victory against the Kings on Friday night. However, in that one, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins sat out a one-game suspension for punching Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverly then having an outburst directed at the officials in the teams’ game Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the Lakers set a franchise record with 19 3-pointers, and their 19-of-27 (70.4 percent) shooting made them just the second team since the 1985-86 season to shoot 70 percent on 3s when attempting at least 25. The Lakers outscored the Kings 72-57 in the second half, scoring 41 points in the third quarter.

The Pelicans certainly have been defensively challenged. In their past 16 quarters, they have allowed 29 or more points 11 times. Starting with the Feb. 24 home game against the Clippers, New Orleans allowed 51.8 percent shooting or better in its next three games before Saturday against the Clippers in Los Angeles. The Pelicans gave up 46.9 percent shooting in that one.

However, they were held to a season lows of 76 points and 32.9 percent shooting, including 13.6 percent on 3-point attempts. The Pelicans have been outscored by an average of 19 points in the past four games, including by 32 in the most-recent game against the Clippers.

Notes

In the Pelicans’ previous game against the Kings, rookie center Jeff Withey scored a career-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots in 27 minutes, 7 seconds. He had 12 points in the second quarter. … The Pelicans are 1-1 against both teams this season. They played the Lakers home and away four days apart in November, and the teams have not met since. This will be the final game against the Lakers. The Pelicans have one more game against the Kings, on March 31 at Smoothie King Center.