NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis and the Pelicans refuse to give up on what has been a largely disappointing, injury-riddled season.
DeMarcus Cousins seems to think his Sacramento team could learn something from New Orleans’ resolve.
Davis had 31 points and 10 rebounds, and the Pelicans came back from a 17-point, second-half deficit to beat the Kings 115-112 on Monday night.
“No matter what the score is or what the situation is — playoffs or no playoffs — we’re going to keep playing,” said Davis, who scored 23 points in the second half.
Norris Cole, who was questionable with back soreness, scored 23 and Jrue Holiday added 20 for New Orleans, which snapped a four-game skid. Dante Cunningham added a clutch 3-pointer — just his 40th of the season — to give the Pelicans their first lead of the second half at 111-110 with 36 seconds left.
Cousins had 40 points, 16 rebounds and four steals for the Kings, but also committed five turnovers and missed the only two shots he attempted — both layups — in the final two minutes.
Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo each scored 18, but Sacramento, which led by 10 with about 6 minutes left, hurt itself with seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The Kings finished with 24 turnovers in a loss that dropped them 5 ½ games behind Houston for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
“It’s been killing us all year,” Cousins said of the turnovers. “It’s going to continue to be a problem if we don’t fix it.”
Ryan Anderson scored 19 for New Orleans, which shot 50 percent (13 of 26) in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento led 69-52 on Ben McLemore’s free throws early in the third quarter, but Davis found his rhythm, hitting 6 of 8 shots, including a 3, as part of a 17-point outburst in the period.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive. They told me to keep shooting the ball, keep going to the hole,” Davis said. “I wasn’t hesitating on my shots. If I had a good look, I was going to put it up.”
Davis’ free throws cut the Kings’ lead to 89-83 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Pelicans tied the game at 89 on Holiday’s driving layup.
Kings coach George Karl then called timeout and his team scored the next eight points on Rondo’s driving floater off the glass and two 3s by Marco Belinelli, who finished with 12 points. Rondo’s 3 shortly after pushed the Kings’ lead back to 10, but the Pelicans refused to fold.
“You have to have some type of competitive nature in this league,” Cole said. “We have guys on this team that’s always up for the challenge and we showed that tonight.”
Davis’ dunk of Holiday’s missed layup pulled New Orleans to 110-108. Cunningham, who scored just seven points all game to go with four steals and a spectacular block on McLemore’s dunk attempt, then made a 3-pointer from the corner.
Holiday hit a jumper to make it 113-110 with 12.8 seconds left.
After Gay’s layup made it 113-112, Cole hit two free throws and then Holiday stole the ball as Rondo dribbled near half court, allowing New Orleans to run out the clock.
Just before his late 3 for the lead, Cunningham said he could hear Sacramento players saying, “Let him shoot.”
“So I said, ‘Hey, I got to hit one,’” Cunningham recalled. “The only thing I thought of was coach (Alvin Gentry) just saying, ‘... If you’re open, jump up and shoot it.’”
The Kings outscored the Pelicans 32-11 to end the second quarter while shooting 68.4 percent (13 of 19) for the period.
Cousins scored 23 points in the first half, after which Sacramento led 63-50.
“Playing defense, taking smart shots, good shots, sharing the ball — that’s what got us into the lead and that’s what we got way from,” Cousins said.
Kings: Omri Casspi scored 15 points. ... Center Kosta Koufos returned from a one-game absence because of food poisoning. He played 6:52 without a point or rebound. He had one steal and committed three fouls.
Pelicans: New Orleans has won all three meetings this season and the teams meet once more in Sacramento on March 16. ... The injury-plagued Pelicans opened the game with their 29th different starting lineup this season: Omer Asik, Davis, Cunningham, Cole and Holiday.
Kings: Host Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Pelicans: Visit Charlotte on Wednesday night.