Kings host Pelicans, aim for second straight home win
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- From the beginning, the Sacramento Kings figured their season would be about small steps. They can take one of those small ones when the streaking New Orleans Pelicans come calling on Wednesday.
The Kings have not won consecutive home games since a three-game run in November. It's the only time Sacramento has backed up victories at the Golden 1 Center all season in a campaign that has been viewed as a start from Ground Zero for the franchise.
Against New Orleans, the Kings will see a team that is flying with a nine-game winning streak, its longest since January 2011. A 121-116 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night kept the Pelicans (37-26) in fourth place in the Western Conference, a half-game better than the fifth-place Spurs in the race for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs and 2 1/2 games better than the nine-place Clippers. The top eight qualify.
"It's the West," Pelicans center Anthony Davis told TNT after the contest. "We know with the position we're in, we have to go and compete every night, like it's a playoff game. ... You lose a game in the West, you can go from third to 10th."
The Pelicans also are a team that Sacramento has defeated twice this season, one of only two teams (Dallas the other) in the Western Conference that the Kings can make that claim against. The most recent of those, Sacramento's 114-103 decision in New Orleans on Jan. 30, came four days after the Pelicans lost All-Star DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the season with an Achilles' tendon injury.
New Orleans has adjusted to life without Sacramento's former franchise player after losing five of its first six without him. The Pelicans have scored at least 118 points in each game of the winning streak and are averaging 126.1 per contest in that stretch.
Davis has been particularly explosive. He scored 41 points and pulled 13 rebounds against the Clippers and is averaging 33.1 points and 13.3 rebounds in 15 games since Cousins' injury. He has topped 40 points five times during the Pelicans' winning streak.
He also averaged 34.0 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in earning the Western Conference's most recent Player of the Week honors
Given what's in front of them, a second straight home win might bolster the Kings' spirits. Sacramento (20-44) has won two of its past three at home but has been mostly piling up losses while giving heavy minutes to youngsters. They haven't won consecutive games anywhere in six weeks.
That said, nobody should mistake the Kings for tanking.
"You've got to build the right habits," forward Garrett Temple told the Sacramento Bee. "So when you do build enough experience, when you do get enough talent, it can translate into playing good basketball."
The Kings have been leaning heavily on rookie guards Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Aaron Fox, who are averaging 17.7 and 14.5 points, respectively, over the past six contests. Each has played at least 27 minutes in each game of that stretch.
Stopping Davis could prove to be difficult. Center Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) will miss his third consecutive game. He also missed two of the previous three contests Sacramento has played against New Orleans.
Center Skal Labissiere, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Sacramento's 102-99 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday, is questionable with a sore right knee.
Updated March 7, 2018