SACRAMENTO -- It was deja vu all over again as the Kings were unable to leverage the second consecutive triple-double DeMarcus Cousins in a 101-95 Kings loss to the Pelicans on Friday at Sleep Train Arena.
Cousins scored 24 points, secured 20 rebounds and also contributed a career-high 13 assists for his third career triple-double, and became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68 to have consecutive 20-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple-doubles, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Additionally, the All-Star center is the first King since Chris Webber in 2004-05 to record triple-doubles in consecutive games.
“I’m just trying to get my teammates involved,” Cousins said. “Teams are playing me so many weird ways whenever I catch the ball so I’m trying not to force anything in the game and get my teammates involved.”
The Kings (26-49) were plagued by allowing 14 3-pointers, including a career-high six by Quincy Pondexter, allowing 16 offensive rebounds to New Orleans (41-34) and missing 10 free throws.
“When he’s playing like that, he puts us in a position to win a basketball game,” Kings forward Omri Casspi said. “Too many missed free throws – I think we had 10. We did a lot better job not turning the ball over – we had only 10. So we’ve got to keep the turnovers low, make our free throws, put ourselves in a better position (to win).
“We just didn’t execute, got into our bodies a little bit and they forced us to contest those 2's. And that’s something we don’t really want to shoot. So they did a good job.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Cousins' effort not enough to top Pelicans]
Former King Tyreke Evans was integral to the Pelicans' balanced attack and was one assist shy of joining Cousins with a triple-double, scoring 19 points, to go along with 12 rebounds and nine assists.
The free throw disparity was a bone of contention especially in the fourth quarter when the the Pelicans were 8-for-14 go to the line more frequently compared to the Kings, who were 5-for-8 from the charity stripe.
“It’s hard to make stops when they’re shooting free throws and we’re not getting any of those free throws,” Kings coach George Karl said. “There was lopsidedness in the fourth quarter on the free throw line and that probably cost us the game.”
Sacramento is now 2-6 this season without Rudy Gay, who was sidelined for the second consecutive game due to a concussion.
However, trailing by as many as 18 points, the Kings rallied back but couldn’t overcome the hungry Pelicans, who are now a half game behind the Thunder for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“I’ve said all along, this has been a mentally and physically draining year for the players, more so than me,” Karl said. “I didn’t go through those first 50 games of the season. There are games where you’re always disappointed, but I think that, for the most part, this team deserves a high praise.
They’ve been learning a new system and a new philosophy and they’ve given me a lot of hard work. I appreciate it.”
Notwithstanding the loss, the coach sees improvement.
“I think every game I see, I see progress,” Karl added. “Tonight, because of how they played defensively, we had every opportunity, even after a rough start. We gave up the three-ball in the start, but then we were better defensively. In the fourth quarter, we missed open shots. Those could’ve gone in and gotten us over the hump. I thought New Orleans showed desperation. They have to win some games on the road and they knew that this was one of those games that they had to go and get if they wanted to get ahead of Oklahoma City.”
Once again, DeMarcus Cousins was exceptional going for his second consecutive and third career triple-double.
Sacramento allowed 14 3-pointers.
The Kings were outrebounded to the tune of 50-38 and also allowed the Pelicans to secure 16 offensive rebounds..
Uncharacteristically, the Kings missed 10 free throws going 15-25 from the free throw line.
The Kings heart, determination and resilience are admirable yet the execution continues to be an issue.
However, Sacramento is leaving it all on the floor and as the season winds down, that’s all you can really ask for. Continuing to work on the process and understanding Karl’s system will pay dividends, if not now but deferred to next season.