NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When DeMarcus Cousins checked out for the final time in his first game against the Sacramento Kings, he got a congratulatory handshake from Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry and a standing ovation from the crowd.
Cousins had 37 points and 13 rebounds against the only other NBA team for which he’s played, and New Orleans routed Sacramento 117-89 on Friday night.
Cousins had downplayed his maiden match-up against the team that drafted him in 2010 and traded him away after the All-Star Game in February, but his play looked inspired. He tied a career-high with five 3-pointers and executed a tricky, crowd-pleasing, cross-court bounce pass during an early fast break.
“My biggest thing was I didn’t want to come in and make it about me. My biggest fear was coming in, doing that and coming out with a loss,” said Cousins, who also had four assists and blocked two shots. “So I was just happy we came out with the right approach. We came out with a lot of energy. We set the tone early. We just played the right type of basketball.”
Anthony Davis added 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Pelicans, who led by as many as 32 en route to their eighth victory in 11 games. Davis said the Pelicans wanted Cousins to be the headliner and worked hard to get him involved.
“Of course it meant a lot,” Davis said. “We just wanted to get him the ball and help him have a great game. We were feeding him early in the game, late in the game.”
Gentry, too, was gratified by Cousins leading role.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to say this is just another game. No, I wanted him to play well against them,” Gentry said. “He did everything we asked him to do.”
Pelicans first-round draft choice Buddy Hield, who was part of the Cousins trade, had 13 points for Sacramento, while Ben McLemore had 15 points.
But the Kings had no answer for the front-court tandem of Cousins and Davis, who helped New Orleans finish with a 60-38 advantage in points in the paint.
“DeMarcus and AD, they can be good for a very long time,” Kings guard Darren Collison said. “They present a lot of problems.”
New Orleans also scored 27 fast-break points and racked up 36 points off of 22 Kings turnovers.
“We struggled to score, turned the basketball over a ton, gave them a ton of points off our turnovers,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “They just kind of overmatched us physically.”
Kings: Skal Labissiere scored 13 points for the Kings, who shot 39.3 percent (35 of 89). Tyreke Evans, Willie Cauley-Stein and Gerogios Papagiannis each scored 11 points. Sacramento fell to 5-14 since trading away Cousins in a deal that also sent Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round draft choices to the Kings. ... Galloway finished with three points. ... When Hield was shooting in the first half, the backdrop to the hoop was tourism advertising for his native Bahamas spread across four sections of seating. The season-long ad campaign had been launched after the Pelicans used their sixth overall draft choice last summer to select Hield.
Pelicans: E’Twaun Moore had 13 points for New Orleans, which shot 48.4 percent (46 of 94). Jordan Crawford and Dante Cunningham each scored 12 points. ... New Orleans has won six straight at home, where it is now 21-18. ... Davis became the first player in Pelicans history to score 2,000 points in a season. ... Cousins has now made five 3s in a game three times in his past four contests.
Although Cousins was merciless toward the Kings on the court, his affection for his old team was apparent. A number of Kings personnel sought Cousins out in the Pelicans locker room after the game to say hello and exchange hugs.
Cousins said it felt “very weird” to go against Kings players, adding, “I’ve still got nothing but love for those guys. I still talk to them on a daily basis. ... It’s no bad blood.”
While it appears too late for the Pelicans to make a playoff run, being 4½ games behind eighth-seeded Portland with six games left, Cousins said he’s been enjoying “seeing our potential come to life.”
“We’re constantly on ourselves about trying to make this thing work and building that chemistry and that team camaraderie,” he said. “It’s just fun to be able to come out there and produce and also see it come together.”
Kings: Visit Minnesota on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Host Chicago on Sunday.