Anthony Davis returns, but Kings top Pelicans

Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACHThe Pelicans' Anthony Davis attempts a shot against Sacramento on March 31 in the Smoothie King Center.
Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACHThe Pelicans' Anthony Davis attempts a shot against Sacramento on March 31 in the Smoothie King Center.

For a team with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings are known for throwing their weight around.

Doing just that helped them move past the New Orleans Pelicans, even with the return of power forward Anthony Davis.

With DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento’s 6-foot-11, 270-pound center, leading the way, the Kings pummeled the Pelicans on the boards to take a 102-97 victory Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.

Cousins had 35 points and 14 rebounds, and Sacramento overwhelmed New Orleans 47-30 on the glass. The Kings had 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 22 second-chance points to the Pelicans’ four.

“We dominated them on the boards, and that was a point we emphasized coming into the game,” Cousins said.

Asked about his bullish drives to the basket, which were just as key, Cousins said, “That’s just my game.”

The victory gave Sacramento (26-48) the season series 3-1 against the Pelicans (32-42), who lost their second consecutive game after winning five in a row. The loss clinched New Orleans’ third consecutive losing season.

Cousins carried the Kings most of the game, but rookie point guard Ray McCallum was key late. He scored 22 points and had 10 assists but scored 10 points in the fourth to keep the Pelicans at bay. Rudy Gay also scored 22 for Sacramento.

“We just didn’t have the great level of sustained effort tonight,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “Our bench came in and gave us great effort. But to start the game giving up 29 points (in the first quarter), then 27 in the third quarter, that’s not our team. We did not have that scrappiness that we had been playing with.”

The Pelicans bench outscored the Kings 43-6. Guard Anthony Morrow led a team-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-6 on 3-point attempts. Rookie center Jeff Withey provided a lift with eight points and career highs of seven rebounds and five blocked shots.

Davis, who missed Saturday’s game with a left ankle injury, had 22 points and a team-high eight rebounds. With Eric Gordon missing his sixth consecutive game with knee tendinitis, Davis and Tyreke Evans, who scored 15, were the only starters in double figures.

Even with the way the Kings were bruising the Pelicans with their physical play, New Orleans had trimmed an eight-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to 97-93 with 1:21 left. But Cousins flipped in a reverse layup at 1:05.

Davis made two free throws with 25.5 seconds remaining, getting the Pelicans within 99-95, but Gay sealed the victory with two free throws with 12.7 seconds left.

Morrow hit a 3-pointer and a five-footer in the lane that brought the Pelicans to 84-83 with 7:18 left. Gay then sank a big 3-point shot, and that touched off a 7-0 run, with McCallum following with jump shots on consecutive possessions. Sacramento led 91-83 at the 5:50 mark.

“We got it to a one-point game and had a mental breakdown,” Williams said. “We go under a screen, and Rudy pops out and hits a 3. We never got back after that.”

The Pelicans went into the fourth quarter trailing 80-76. That they were in position to win the game said a lot.

The Kings led 76-64 with 3:12 left in the third quarter behind Cousins’ low-post scoring. But with 1:05 left, after Davis had made a three-point play that brought the Pelicans to 80-71, came a momentum-changing event.

Sacramento’s wide-bodied power forward, Reggie Evans, drove against Davis, who had perfect position. Evans hit Davis in the face, sending him to the floor. Evans was charged with a Flagrant Foul 2 and was ejected.

Davis made his two free throws. Morrow then sank a 3 from the corner with 52.4 seconds left, bringing New Orleans to the four-point margin at the end of the quarter.