Surging Kings hold off Pelicans as DeMarcus Cousins outduels Anthony Davis down the stretch
Anthony Davis loses the ball against the swarming defense of the Kings. AP

DEMARCUS Cousins outdueled Anthony Davis in a battle of the NBA’s top big men as the surging Sacramento Kings held off the New Orleans Pelicans, 105-99, at the Golden 1 Center on Sunday (Monday, Manila time).

Cousins scored fewer points than Davis but put in a better all-around performance, especially down the stretch, as he finished with 28 markers, 14 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Sacramento has won three straight to move to 23-32, a game behind eighth place Denver Nuggets in the West standings.

Davis, on the other hand, had 32 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans (21-34), who have not won two straight since early January but looked poised to do just that early on.

The Kings trailed by as much as 13 before a 15-0 blitz between the second and third quarters gave Sacramento the upper hand, 66-56, just minutes after halftime.

The Pelicans regained the lead near the end of the third before another 14-3 run got the Kings back on top, 84-76, early in the fourth. Davis started taking over for New Orleans to cut the gap down to three but Kings’ own star big man Cousins also stepped up and had a crucial steal to push the lead back up to eight, 101-93, with 1:46 to play.

Davis answered with a three-pointer on the next play but both teams traded turnovers to give the Pelicans another chance to inch closer. However, Davis and Langston Galloway could not convert on two chances from beyond the arc as Cousins sank a pair of free throws to slam the door on a Pelicans comeback.

The game had some tense moments late in the first half as Pelicans rookie Buddy Hield got ejected for the first time in his career with a groin shot on Cousins in the second quarter.

Darren Collison added 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Sacramento. Matt Barnes chipped in 12 off the bench

Jrue Holiday also had a double-double for New Orleans with 16 points and 11 assists. Dante Cunningham added 14 markers, including four triples.

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