Cousins keeps cool, guides Kings past Pelicans

(TSX / STATS) -- SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The officials finished looking at the replay, pointed at the Sacramento Kings bench and upheld the technical foul called on DeMarcus Cousins for throwing an inadvertent elbow late in the first quarter.

With that, the Kings' franchise player took off for the team's locker room, leaving the court and exiting the contest for several minutes.

"I was just trying to gather my thoughts," Cousins said. "The last couple of days have been tough, frustrating. I'm just trying to move forward."

The Kings are doing so in a positive way these days, and Cousins' departure and return a short time later was a noteworthy development in Sacramento's 105-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday at the Golden 1 Center.

Cousins finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. He knocked down two key free throws late, and he kept himself from melting down despite his NBA-leading 17th technical foul.

"I don't want to overanalyze (what he did)," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "As he doesn't get another one."

Sacramento (23-32) won for the third straight time and closed a 4-2 homestand that began with buzzer-beating loss to the Phoenix Suns and later included Cousins' one-game suspension for picking up his 16th technical foul of the season. The forward will be suspended for every two technical fouls he receives the rest of the way.

"I can't be myself," he said. "Me playing the way I play is what makes me the player I am, but it's not acceptable. So I'm trying to find a way to do what these guys are asking me to do, but it's not easy."

Cousins played for the second time since returning from the suspension but still seemed to lack the usual fire that comes with his game. Even he doesn't know whether it will return.

"It's a tough situation," he said.

Darren Collison chipped in 20 points and eight assists for the short-handed Kings, who played without guard Ty Lawson (strained hamstring) for the second consecutive contest. Collison helped the Kings to a bit better start than usual by scoring 16 points in the first half.

"We had three stops in a row seven times and got after people," Joerger said. "It was just a good team win."

Anthony Davis scored 32 points for New Orleans, 21 of them in a first half that saw New Orleans build a 50-39 lead. He also had 10 rebounds.

The game turned with 2:55 left in the first half when officials ejected Pelicans guard Buddy Hield after a flagrant-2 foul. Hield tried to move around a screen set by Cousins and grabbed the Kings forward in the groin and appeared to squeeze.

Hield told reporters that he has a habit of grabbing a player's hip when he defends and that his hand simply got away from him. Hield finished with only five points, but after he left, the Kings scored 11 of the game's next 13 points.

"I'm not gonna respond to that because all I'm going to do is get myself in trouble," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said when asked about Hield's ejection. "I'm leaving that one alone."

Sacramento also scored the first 11 points of the second half to move ahead 66-58, and they remained in control the rest of the way.

"We turned the ball over a little bit too much," Gentry said. "We didn't make shots. You've got to make shots, and we didn't."

Jrue Holiday scored 16 points and Dante Cunningham added 14 for the Pelicans, who failed in a bid to record back-to-back victories for the first time in a month. New Orleans (21-34) hurt itself with 17 turnovers and shot just 41.5 percent from the field. The Pelicans were outscored 66-49 after Hield was ejected.

Matt Barnes added 12 points, Ben McLemore scored 11 and Arron Afflalo had 10 for Sacramento.

NOTES: C Alexis Ajinca did not play for New Orleans amid rampant speculation he could be headed for Philadelphia in a trade for F Jhalil Okafor, who was held out the 76ers' game Sunday. ... Kings F DeMarcus Cousins and Pelicans C Anthony Davis, both University of Kentucky products under coach John Calipari, squared off for the 16th time. Davis has averaged 21.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in those meetings, while Cousins has averaged 25.7 points and 12.6 rebounds. Cousins had a streak of 12 consecutive double-doubles vs. the Pelicans that ended Nov. 8 in Sacramento's 102-94 win over New Orleans in the teams' first meeting this season. ... New Orleans G E'Twaun Moore (personal reasons) and F Terence Jones (sprained right ankle) both missed a second game in a row. ... The Kings have trailed by at least 20 at some point in 15 games this season. Only Orlando (18), Phoenix (18) and Brooklyn (21) have fallen behind that big that often.

Updated February 13, 2017

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